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Georgia Bill Would Expand Healthcare Freedom

Tenth Amendment Center: Georgia Bill Would Expand Healthcare Freedom

ATLANTA, Ga. (March 16, 2018) – A bill introduced in the Georgia House would help facilitate healthcare freedom outside of government insurance regulatory schemes.

Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) introduced House Bill 1051 (HB1051) on March 12. The legislation specifies that direct primary care agreements (sometimes called medical retainer agreements) do not constitute insurance, thereby freeing doctors and patients from the onerous requirements and regulations under the state insurance code.

The bill stipulates that physicians offering, marketing, selling, or entering into a direct primary care agreement shall not be required to obtain a certificate of authority or license other than to maintain a current license to practice medicine with the State of Georgia.

HB1051 also includes provisions defining direct primary care agreements and establishing modest requirements.

According to Michigan Capitol Confidential, by removing a third party payer from the equation, medical retainer agreements help both physicians and patients minimize costs. Jack Spencer writes:

“Under medical retainer agreements, patients make monthly payments to a physician who in return agrees to provide a menu of routine services at no extra charge. Because no insurance company stands between patient and doctor, the hassles and expense of bureaucratic red tape are eliminated, which have resulted in dramatic cost reductions. Routine primary care services (and the bureaucracy required to reimburse them) are estimated to consume 40 cents out of every dollar spent on insurance policies, so lower premiums for a given amount of coverage are another potential benefit.”

This represents the kind of cost control Obamacare promised but failed to deliver. In 2015, Tom Woods interviewed a Kansas doctor who utilizes the direct primary care model. Dr. Josh Umbehr’s practice demonstrates the cost savings possible when doctors are unfettered from the bureaucratic health insurance system.

Under Obamacare, regulations define such programs as a primary care service and not a health insurance plan, and current IRS policy treats these monthly fee arrangements just like another health plan.

A FIRST STEP

At this point, it doesn’t look like Republicans will repeal or even reform Obamacare, and the changes to the ACA proposed by the GOP would have arguably made things worse. Even with the penalty for not buying health insurance repealed by the Republican tax plan, all other Obamacare rules and regulations remain in place. Regardless, state actions can help completely bring down the Affordable Care Act, or any national healthcare plan the Congress comes up with in the future.

Oftentimes, supporters of Obamacare criticize opponents for not having any alternative. Direct primary care offers one.

These direct patient/doctor agreements allow a system uncontrolled by government regulations to develop. It makes doctors responsive to patients, not insurance company bureaucrats or government rule-makers. Allowing patients to contract directly with doctors via medical retainer agreements opens the market. Under such agreements, market forces will set price for services based on demand instead of relying on central planners with a political agenda. The end result will be better care delivered at a lower cost.

By incentivizing creative healthcare solutions, the market will naturally provide better options, such as the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, This facility operates completely outside of the insurance system, providing a low-cost alternative for many surgical procedures.

A more open healthcare marketplace within a state will help spur de facto nullification the federal program by providing an affordable alternative. As patients flock to these arrangements and others spurred by ingenuity and market forces, the old system will begin to crumble. Creating a structure for Medicaid patients to access direct primary care would likely incentivize more doctors to adopt the direct primary care model, expanding the market further.

Passage of HB1051 would take the first step toward healthcare freedom in Georgia and would create a stepping stone to further action to nullify the onerous Affordable Care act. Once in place, the people of Georgia could take further steps to fully extricate themselves from Obamacare for good.

WHAT’S NEXT

At the time of this report, HB1051 has not been referred a committee. Once it receives a committee assignment, it will have to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.

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