New law enables patients to enter into contracts with primary care doctors
AUGUSTA — Maine is one step closer to a manageable, cost-effective health care system that enhances choice and access to services.
Gov. Paul LePage has signed into law a bill that stamps Maine’s Direct Primary Care (DPC) health care model into state law. The bill, LD 1385, created by the Maine Heritage Policy Center and sponsored by Sen. Rod Whittemore, R-Somerset, removes insurance companies and other barriers from the health care equation.
DPC is an alternative health care model that allows patients to enter into a contract with physicians while paying a flat monthly fee for services, eliminating third-party influence entirely from the patient-physician relationship. DPC grants patients unlimited access to their primary care physician and gives physicians more flexibility and autonomy over their practice.
If you’ve never heard of the DPC model before, the concept of it is simple. DPC physicians reject participation in the conventional health insurance system and instead accept a simple, flat fee from patients, allowing them to offer patients’ unlimited visits and more personalized care.
In other words, no more middle men, no more insurance behemoths driving up costs and no more maddening red tape. It restores the fundamental relationship between doctor and patient, and eliminates so much of what is making our health care system broken today. Additionally, the model reduces preventable hospitalizations and lowers patients’ out-of-pocket expenses, safeguarding their ability to seek DPC services outside of a health insurance plan.
For instance, Megunticook Family Medicine in Rockport charges a $40 monthly fee for someone between the ages of 22 and 64 to receive DPC services. This monthly fee covers a physical and a flu shot, and following visits cost only $20. Similar systems are developing across the country and will continue taking shape in Maine.
There are only nine direct primary care providers currently practicing in Maine, but the passage of DPC legislation will likely spur additional activity in the industry now that the model is protected by state law.
“It is a commonsense measure that will provide consumers with more choices when seeking high-quality health care and providers with the security needed to expand and flourish in Maine,” Sen. Whittemore said in a statement.
The DPC model is the future of health care in America, and if it is allowed to thrive and grow, will help make so much of what the federal government does to inject itself into our health care system completely irrelevant.
Before this bill was passed, the state Bureau of Insurance was empowered to potentially mandate that DPC practices have and maintain $1 million in capital reserves or undergo extensive and costly financial audits, which would not only crush most practitioners, but would disincentivize more physicians from pursuing this model.
The passage of DPC in Maine is a significant step toward reducing government intervention in health care and letting market forces improve the quality of care while reducing cost.
With LD 1385 now enacted, Maine has the opportunity to spark a revolution in health care which will serve to attract more physicians to Maine and increase access to quality care across the state.
Best of all, the passage of DPC solidifies that Maine is once again serving as a national leader in an important free-market health care reform, and will help inspire similar changes in other states.
Matthew Gagnon is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center.