Monthly subscriptions are not just for Netflix and gym membership any more. For some people, getting in to see the doctor right away is worth paying a monthly retainer. And if a bill introduced in Congress passes into law, paying directly for primary care will be a lot easier to do.
The Primary Care Enhancement Act of 2016 proposes to amend the tax code so consumers can use their health savings accounts (HSAs) to pay physicians in direct primary care (DPC), bypassing insurance. H.R. 6015 would also enable Medicare enrollees to pay for direct primary care using Medicare funds, rather than pay out of pocket.
Whether H.R. 6015, proposed by Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minnesota, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, will spur expansion of direct primary care is uncertain.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) estimates that 2% of its members are DPC providers.
“A tremendous number have expressed an interest, and the number is growing,” says AAFP President John Meigs, Jr., MD. “The AAFP supports this bill, as well as an identical bill proposed in the Senate last year. Congress moves at glacial speed sometimes, and with the election coming up, not a whole lot of work is getting done right now.”
The bill is currently sitting in the House Ways and Means Committee and was referred to the Subcommittee on Health.
Further reading: The rise of direct primary care
Direct primary care physicians charge patients a monthly fee for care and access to a package of services rather than by fee-for-service or insurance. The subscription model can grant patients increased access to doctors, discounted drugs and laboratory services.
According to Meigs, the proposed law will allow people with high deductible plans to use their HSA to pay for primary care, given that people with high deductible insurance plans can use their insurance for catastrophic coverage and hospitalizations, and cost-effectively tap their HSAs for primary care.