A Jacksonville state lawmaker is pushing to expand a program that helps patients without traditional health insurance directly pay healthcare providers.
Republican Wyman Duggan’s bill (HB 7), which builds on a 2018 law known as “direct primary care,” cleared a second House reading by a vote of 90-24 Wednesday.
Critics worry there’s nothing stopping providers from dropping their patients, but Duggan contends the model gives people an alternative to health insurance.
“I would submit to you that these agreements are no different than your monthly cable bill,” he said. “They’re a private agreement between private parties, negotiated at arm’s length, between a service provider and a customer.”
According to the bill analysis, patients who use direct primary care pay monthly fees, typically between $25 to $100, to access a set of services. After paying the fee, patients are able to access all services under the agreement at no additional charge. But Duggan said “direct healthcare” does not cover severe injuries.
“This form of agreement does not provide coverage for catastrophic coverage” he said. “This is outside the insurance arena.”
The direct payment set up covers primary care services like annual physicals, vaccinations and wound care.
Doctors, chiropractors and nurses are able to enter the arrangement with patients. Duggan’s proposal would change the name of the direct-payment system to “direct health care” and also allow such arrangements with dentists.
Proponents of the model claim it reduces overhead costs and provides an affordable care alternative to patients, but opponents say they’re concerned about a lack of oversight, since the system isn’t regulated under insurance laws.
According to the bill analysis, the changes would have no fiscal impact on state or local governments.
Senator Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, is sponsoring a companion bill, which is slated to go before its second committee Monday.