‘Direct primary care' bill goes to Gov. Scott

- A bill that would allow physicians, chiropractors and group practices to sign “direct primary-care” agreements with patients without running amok of Florida’s insurance laws is on its way to Gov. Rick Scott.

The Senate voted unanimously Thursday to approve the measure (HB 37), sponsored by Rep. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, and Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa. The House passed the bill in January by a 97-10 vote.

Under direct primary-care agreements, doctors charge patients monthly fees in advance of providing services, with patients then able to access services at no extra charge. The bill does not spell out how much can be charged or what services need to be included in the agreements.

The bill would amend the state insurance code to make clear that direct primary-care agreements do not violate insurance regulations. Primary care providers are defined as physicians, osteopathic physicians, chiropractors, nurses or primary-care group practices.

The bill also would require direct primary-care contracts to be in writing and to describe the scope of services that would be covered. The bill doesn’t limit how much the monthly charges can be, but it would prevent providers who collect direct-primary care money from billing insurance companies.

Direct primary care already exists, with an estimated 4,400 direct primary-care physicians nationwide.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, according to an analysis of the bill, has “not asserted regulatory authority over them.”

But the analysis said “there is uncertainty about whether the (office) might assert such authority in the future.” If that were to occur, the direct primary care arrangements could be subject to the insurance premium tax that Florida levies on insurance policies. In addition, direct primary-care arrangements could also be subjected to all other regulations, including reserve requirements.

Lee said the measure, long sought by House Republican leaders, provides the “statutory footing” that health care providers need before agreeing to enter into direct primary-care agreements.

The bill also would require that the agreements contain language in contrasting color and at least 12-point type making clear that the arrangements aren’t health insurance.

The bill has been a priority for the small-business group National Federation of Independent Business Florida.

“Direct primary care has the potential to change the whole  health care market,” NFIB Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle said in a text message to The News Service of Florida. “Docs will work for the patient, not some insurance company. With this good bill we expect that a lot of family practitioners will look at changing their practice model.”

 

Information provided by The News Service of Florida.

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