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Doctors React to Governor’s Veto of Direct Primary Care Bill

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Blue Ridge Family Practice in Albemarle County Blue Ridge Family Practice in Albemarle County
Dr. Maura McLaughlin, primary care physician Dr. Maura McLaughlin, primary care physician
Dr. Jill Zackrisson, primary care physician Dr. Jill Zackrisson, primary care physician
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

Some primary care doctors in central Virginia are shocked and upset that Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed a new, bipartisan healthcare bill. The bill would have clarified that "direct primary care" (DPC) is not the same thing as insurance.

DPC allows patients pay for a monthly subscription and get unlimited care, instead of using health insurance.

Dr. Maura McLaughlin is part of a growing group of physicians using DPC. Her patients at Blue Ridge Family Practice in Crozet pay $60 a month for unlimited visits and never file for insurance.

"Rather than have that insurance inflated cost every time they need to go in for primary care, they have a fixed monthly fee they can budget in,” McLaughlin said.

She still encourages patients to buy health insurance in case of emergency, but says it drives up costs for routine checkups.

“We would never buy car insurance to cover our gas because it would cost, you know, $20 dollars a gallons instead of $2 a gallon,” McLaughlin said.

25th District Delegate Steve Landes (R) introduced a bill to clarify that DPC was not the same thing as insurance.

It unanimously passed the House in February with bipartisan support, but Governor McAuliffe vetoed it Friday.

“I was disappointed, I think direct primary care has so many benefits,” said Dr. Jill Zackrisson, primary care physician. 

McLaughlin says while she's frustrated, she hopes that similar legislation may pass in the future.

“The only group to oppose this bill and to encourage the governor to veto was the insurance lobby and so I can't speak to the exact reasons that he did veto it, but again the patients, physicians, local businesses were all pushing for this bill to pass,” McLaughlin said.

In his veto message, McAuliffe said he believes DPC deters people from buying health insurance. He proposed reintroducing the bill after one year of further study.

Press Release from the Office of Governor Terry McAuliffe: 

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 685, which allows for direct primary care agreements by excluding them from insurance laws and regulations. Direct primary care agreements are insurance-like contracts in which a patient pays a predetermined amount in exchange for future medical services with a primary care physician or group.

While I applaud the patron’s desire to increase access to care, I feel this concept needs further scrutiny and study. Over the past three sessions, I have championed bringing federal taxpayer dollars back to the Commonwealth to cover more than 400,000 hard-working Virginians. A direct primary care agreement is merely a stop-gap measure in a time when bolder steps are needed. Not only would a product like this deter an individual from purchasing health insurance, it would still not cover any catastrophic care or chronic conditions requiring a specialist.

I proposed amending House Bill 685 by adding a reenactment clause to allow for further study. I am now vetoing this bill to allow more time to consider the potential challenges, issues and advantages associated with direct primary care agreements.While direct primary care agreements may be good in theory, more work needs to be done on how to best implement this change and protect consumers.

Accordingly, I veto this bill.

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