Missoula residents have enjoyed direct primary care for the last several years as a cost-effective way to provide quality healthcare while not involving expensive and cumbersome health insurance companies.

That concept may soon be codified into Montana law with Senate Bill 101, put forward by State Senator Cary Smith from District 27 in Billings describes his bill.

“What it does is it makes it possible for somebody to set up an agreement or an arrangement with a physician or any other health care provider, where they will contract for services either on a monthly basis or an annual basis,” said Senator Smith.

As Missoula patients already know, primary direct care brings the patient and the health provider together without all the insurance complications.

“We get rid of a lot of red tape,” he said. “That's the patient working directly with the health care provider. We don't have insurance in between which is one of the very high costs of health care in just dealing with the insurance. You don't have all the paperwork and red tape while you have to deal with meeting government requirements, and it's just really a great opportunity for us to lower the high cost of health care.”

Smith said this concept has been introduced in previous legislative sessions, but was always vetoed by then Governor Steve Bullock.

“We've carried bills like this similarly in the past and Governor Bullock vetoed them,” he said. “Matt Rosendale when he was in the office of the insurance commissioner, issued an executive order and said that we were not going to regulate these kinds of businesses as insurance, and now we're codifying that so that we make sure we have that in the law.”

Smith said with a Republican majority in both houses and a Republican governor, the bill stands a good chance of becoming law.

“We've got great support from the auditor's office,” he said. “We've got great support from the Governor's office. I know the governor talks all the time about trying to do things to reduce the high cost of health care and to be more free market and this is certainly one of those types of bills that works on that idea.”

Since Rosendale’s 2017 advisory memo, at least seven Direct Primary Care clinics have opened in Montana, in Billings, Missoula, Bozeman, Kalispell, Polson, Whitefish, and Helena. The reaction from patients to Montana’s existing DPC clinics continues to be “overwhelmingly positive.”

 

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