Virginia Lawmakers Discuss Direct Primary Care Bill

Posted: Updated:

An alternative to the usual medical billing set-up is the hot topic tonight at the state capitol. A bill that could get traction again this year would support the growing movement of direct primary care.

The health insurance reform commission heard Thursday from doctors and other supporters of this care model. Last year, the governor vetoed legislation that would have clarified state law on direct primary care.

Some are hoping to see this legislation make it through for 2017.

"It finally came to me at one point that the problem was that we were working for the wrong employer. That is we had forgotten that we worked for patients," said Dr. Garrison Bliss, chair of the Direct Primary Care Coalition.

Doctor Garrison Bliss was a pioneer of direct primary care in Seattle. He's pleased to see that practice expanded to hundreds like his across the country. The concept is patients pay a flat monthly fee to a doctor and have unlimited access to office visits.

"And primary care is actually the center-post upon which healthcare rides. And when it is not there, health care gets more expensive and more dangerous," said Bliss.

Doctor Maura McLaughlin of Blue Ridge Family Practice says this idea appeals to doctors-in-training, as a shortage of primary care physicians looms.

"Physicians want to be able to provide this model of care and patients want to be able to have access to high quality primary care to at an affordable cost," said McLaughlin.

Last year, the General Assembly passed a bill with bipartisan support that clarified state law. The legislation said direct primary care is not the same thing as insurance, and Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed it.

Doug Gray of the Virginia Association of Health Plans also opposed the bill.

"There doesn't appear to be a direct need for the bill. In addition to that when you look at what the bill does do, it ensures that a consumer will have no protection, that's what it does," said Doug Gray, Executive Director of the Virginia Association of Health Plans.

The doctors who spoke at the meeting said direct primary care can be especially helpful to patients with chronic conditions who need to see a provider regularly, but want to keep their medical expenses down. However, they still recommend patients have health insurance.

  • Sign Up for Email Alerts

    Sign up to receive news, weather, and breaking news emails from the NBC29 newsroom in your inbox daily.

    * denotes required fields

    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.