Written by Gordon Webster, Jr.
With all the talk about government desperately needing to take over our health care system, a recent oped in the Wall Street Journal reminded me of how simple it could all really be.
The piece, headlined “Cut Out the Medical Middlemen,” offers a look at how cutting out both the government and insurance companies could be the key to affordable health care.
Authored by John Carlson, co-founder of Washington Policy Center and a morning radio show host in Seattle, the oped shares the story of Todd Gibbons of Poulsbo, Washington, who is able to provide health coverage to his family of five for $150 a month.
How does he do it? He’s a member of Vintage Direct Primary Care, a medical practice that treats patients for routine care and procedures for a monthly fee. There are no fees for office visits or copayments. For lab tests and medications not covered by the monthly fee, Vintage offers them at wholesale prices. For instance, a cholesterol blood test is $3.20 for a Vintage member, but $22 at other in-network providers. The generic for Viagra is 37 cents per pill, with the next cheapest option at Safeway for $2.13.
The point is that the costs are low and transparent. While patients would still need high-deductible coverage to take care of non routine procedures, pairing that with a direct primary care plan can provide some real cost savings.
These sorts of plans would be a great alternative for employers to chose for their employees, but tax incentives currently discourage them from doing so. It would be up to the IRS to allow patients to use health-savings accounts to pay for direct primary care memberships. Let’s hope it happens soon.