I love Montana for reasons that draw me to the state at least once a year: friends, mountains, wildlife, dry air and fishing, to name a few.
Now I have a new reason to love it: Health care freedom.
Earlier this year, Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill that promises to expand a health care model known as Direct Patient Care.
Increasingly fed up with red tape, paperwork and meddlesome third-party rules — especially since passage of Obamacare — a growing number of physicians are opting to bypass both government and insurance companies. Under a DPC arrangement, patients pay doctors directly through monthly membership fees or for specific services rendered.
(Note: In other states, where this delivery model is more limited than it now is in Montana, it is commonly referred to as “Direct Primary Care.”)
Those monthly membership fees average well under $100 and they typically cover all in-office appointments, services, tests and online consultations. In the July 2021 issue of Reason magazine, Dr. Lee Gross of Epiphany Health DPC in Florida believes that “About 85 percent of all health care delivery in the country can be managed at a primary care level, so that is really the bulk of health care delivery in our country.”
DPC physicians “are able to charge less than traditional practices,” writes Mark McDaniel, “because the lack of coding and billing means they don’t need to hire support staff.” The savings are enormous — cutting health care costs, some say, by more than half.
The greatest drag on the DPC model is the threat of government red tape and regulations at the federal and state levels, as well as pressure from those with a vested interest in the high-cost, less-than-transparent status quo. Montana’s new law clears the decks of a lot of that rigmarole, and it goes further than any other state so far by opening the door for dentists, mental health care providers and other specialists to offer DPC options to their patients.
Between 2017 and 2021, eight new DPC clinics had opened in Montana; that number is now expected to grow substantially under the new legislation.
If DPC were to become commonplace, it would empower and liberate both patients and doctors and do more to bring down costs than perhaps any other health care reform. Insurance would deal then with only catastrophic expenses, meaning that premiums would fall. Seems like common sense, but plenty of regulatory and ideological barriers remain.
To quote Dr. Lee Gross again:
The first time I went to Washington and made a presentation on direct primary care, I gave it to a group of physicians, and after I gave my presentation on our practice and what we were doing, a doctor raised his hand and said, “You are charging $80 a month. What happens if some doctor sets up right next door to you and charges $40 a month?” I said, “That's an excellent question, because if the first question out of the audience is, ‘What are we going to do when we bring down the price of health care?’, we’re onto something.
People who want bureaucrats in charge of their health care will resist any advance in the DPC model, but I think Montana is on to something.
Lawrence W. Reed, a resident of Newnan, is president emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education. His most recent book is “Was Jesus a Socialist?” He can be reached at email@example.com.