Direct Primary Care, Balance Billing Get House Support

Mar 2, 2016

With the support of doctors and small businesses, the Florida House has unanimously passed a bill that would clear the way for "direct primary care” agreements.

The agreements involve monthly payments that patients or their employers make to doctors to cover routine primary-care services, which would cut out the role of insurers.

State Rep. Mike Miller, R-Orlando, called HB 37 an "important step forward" in providing quality, affordable health care.

"This is not about concierge service, this is not a high-priced, wealthy idea,” Miller said. “This is for people to make a direct contact with their doctor, hopefully have more care instead of less care."

The bill makes it clear that the agreements are not considered insurance and are not governed by state insurance laws, a move that supporters say is needed to allow the agreements to go forward.

A similar bill is ready for a Senate floor vote.

The House also passed a bill (HB 221) 116-1 to help eliminate what's called "balance billing." This happens when people get emergency treatment from doctors or medical providers who are not part of their insurance plan's network.

That has led to patients receiving unexpected bills.

The legislation includes a dispute-resolution process to help health-care providers and insurers work out billing issues. 

State Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven, voted for the bill.

"This is one of the greatest consumer protections that we are going to be able to pass this year,” Wood said.

He said government can't address every aspect of health care financing, but they can take the consumer out of it.

"What we can fix and what this bill does is it protects our consumers from inappropriate billing,” Wood said.

If the Senate passes the companion bill, it will head to Gov. Rick Scott.

Other bills that passed in the House Wednesday include:

HB 81- The Miami-Dade Infectious Disease Elimination Act (IDEA) to create a needle-exchange pilot program in Miami-Dade County.

HB 85 - Recovery Care Services

HB 139 – Dental Care

HB 259 – Temporary Care of a Child

HB 373- Mental Health Counseling Interns

HB 375 – Physicians’ Assistants

HB 423 - Drug Prescription by Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners & Physician Assistants

HB 599  - Child Welfare

HB 769  - Mental Health Treatment

--Daylina Miller is a reporter with WUSF in Tampa. WUSF is a partner with Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.