Wisconsin Committees Pass Bills to Expand Healthcare Freedom

MADISON, Wisc. (Feb. 12, 2018) – Two Wisconsin bills that would help facilitate healthcare freedom outside of government insurance regulatory schemes have passed their respective committees.

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin), along with a bipartisan coalition of 32 cosponsors, introduced Assembly Bill 798 (AB798) on Dec. 28. A companion bill in the Senate (SB670) was introduced around the same time. 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 bills also include provisions defining direct primary care agreements and establishing modest requirements.

The Assembly Committee on Small Business Development approved an amended version of AB798 on Feb. 7 by a 9-4 vote. The Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations approved the SB670 3-2 on Feb. 1 with the same amendments.

Under the bills as introduced, the state Department of Health Services would have been required to set up a pilot program making direct primary care available for Medicaid recipients. Under the amended legislation, the department would be required to set up a study committee to explore including direct primary care in its Medicaid program with the goal of introducing legislation to that end in 2019.

Sanfelippo chairs the Assembly Health Committee. He told the State Journal the legislation would help patients facing massive deductible get affordable primary care and would free doctors from reams of paperwork.

“It cuts out any government bureaucracy, or an insurance company, from being in the middle of that relationship.”

The Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians has already announced support for the legislation. “It allows those that maybe are not part of large groups … to offer different kinds of patients an opportunity to get coverage in a reasonable way, with reasonable cost,” WAFP executive director Larry Pheifer said.

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. Last fall, 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 AB798 And SB670 would take the first step toward healthcare freedom in Wisconsin and would create a stepping stone to further action to nullify the onerous Affordable Care act. Once in place, Wisconsinan could take further steps to fully extricate themselves from Obamacare for good.

For more information on a plan to nullify the PPACA, click HERE.

About Tenth Amendment Center
The Tenth Amendment Center is a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution. For more information visit the Tenth Amendment Center Blog.

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