Montana Senate Majority Leader Cary Smith celebrated a new analysis this week showing that his Direct Patient Care legislation from the last session is having a positive impact in Montana.

Smith related some of the history of his legislation.

“This is a legislation that we passed during last year’s session,” said Senator Smith. “I've worked on a lot of bills that try to help us reduce the high cost of health care, and one of the really high costs of health care is insurance itself. What a direct patient care program does is allows the patient to work directly with the health care provider for services.”

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Smith said the concept of Direct Patient Care eliminates the need for medical insurance in some cases.

“Usually they'll have a monthly contract or a yearly contract on what services will be provided for a specific fee,” he said. “The physician or doctor or any medical practitioner does not need to go to an insurance company for billing. It's just handled back and forth between the patient and the healthcare provider by cutting out the middleman, and we have found out that that can greatly reduce some of the expenses of dealing with health care.”

In addition, the bill allows the Direct Care provider to prescribe and distribute medication.

“You can visit your doctor and you don't have to get a prescription written from the doctor and then go to a pharmacy,” he said. “If you go in because your kid has a sore throat and the doctor diagnoses strep, let's say you get a prescription from the doctor and you can still go to a pharmacy and have it filled, but the Direct Care physician could take and fulfill the prescription right there as well, so the kid that you bundled up to take out that's not feeling well you don't have to now take them over to the pharmacy. You just take them home and given them the prescription.”

Smith said even though the legislation is now over a year old, some are still adjusting to the positive changes in health care.

“It takes a while sometimes to change attitudes, not just with what government thinks but even what businesses think like the pharmacies,” he said. “So not only is it about relationships with patients, it's also relationships with legislators having the patience to get something done.”

At least 16 health care providers operating primarily with the DPC model are now serving patients in Montana. Montana DPC providers now include physicians, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and naturopaths. The average Montana DPC membership fee for comprehensive primary care is only $77 per month. Montana’s DPC industry is now providing affordable, high quality health care to approximately 5,000 Montana patients.

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