Monday, March 01, 2021

It's time to enshrine Direct Patient Care into state law

by Cary Smith
| February 12, 2021 7:00 AM

If the past year’s challenges posed by the pandemic have taught us anything, it’s that Montanans in all corners of the state need increased, more affordable access to health care. My bill moving through the state legislature will do just that.

I’m sponsoring Senate Bill 101 to authorize Direct Patient Care (DPC) in state law and expand access to affordable health care for Montanans all across the state. It’s a system where patients pay their doctors directly for a variety of health care services instead of going through an insurance company. DPC is often paid for through an affordable, flat monthly subscription fee.

It provides an alternative health care model that improves the doctor-patient relationship and simplifies the system to speed up the process of receiving care.

Under DPC, Montanans who are uninsured can enjoy access to the health care they otherwise would not be able to afford or receive. It cuts out the middleman to provide Montanans with increased access to quality health care, more affordable care, greater transparency in pricing and better, more personalized care options. While it’s still a good idea to have health insurance, at least for serious medical events like hospitalization, cancer, or major surgery, DPC can affordably take care of Montanans’ more routine medical needs.

Establishing DPC has been a years-long effort. Back in 2015, current U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale sponsored a bill to authorize DPC while serving as a state senator. In 2017, I also proposed similar legislation to allow Direct Patient Care. Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed both bills.

To Congressman Rosendale’s credit, he issued an advisory memo in 2017 while serving as state auditor to authorize DPC.

Since then, eight Direct Patient Care clinics have opened in Montana: in Billings, Missoula, Bozeman, Kalispell, Polson, Whitefish,= and Helena. Patient reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. Now, it is time to officially put the system into law, give clarity to the DPC industry, and help make these clinics commonplace.

As healthcare becomes more expensive each year, it’s clear that we must finally take the necessary steps to lower costs. That’s why I’m proudly taking action to build a stronger, healthier Montana by moving SB 101 forward. Now, with Gov. Greg Gianforte at the helm, I am confident these efforts will not go to waste.

The tremendous opportunity to finally expand access to affordable health care by making SB 101 Montana law has arrived. My Republican colleagues and I are ready to lead the charge to deliver results and make this necessary change in our health care system become a reality.

The author is a state senator (R-Billings).