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'Direct Primary Care' Draws Senate Questions

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Senators raised questions Tuesday about a bill that could help doctors and patients enter into what are known as "direct primary care" agreements.

The proposal, which has been moving through the House and Senate, would make clear that direct-primary care agreements are not covered by state insurance laws. Under the agreements, patients or their employers would make monthly payments to doctors for primary-care services, cutting out the role of insurers.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Tuesday voted 9-1 to approve the proposal (SB 132), but members of the panel indicated they would like to see changes to make sure consumers are informed about the limitations of the agreements.

As examples, the agreements wouldn't cover hospitalization and would not satisfy coverage requirements under the federal Affordable Care Act.

"I think it's important to make sure that people know exactly what they have and what they don't have,'' state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said. State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, similarly pointed to a need for disclosure of information.

"I am all for choices, but we need to help people make an informed choice," Detert said.

Physician organizations and groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business support the bill. Chris Nuland, a lobbyist for the Florida Chapter of the American College of Physicians, said direct primary care could help address medical services for the "working poor" because small employers might be able to afford some primary-care services but not full insurance coverage.

"This just allows the employer to give something to their employee,'' Nuland said.