Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law a bill that could reduce the role insurance plays in U.S. health care (h/t Ben Domenech). So-called “medical retainer” agreements allow patients to pay a monthly fee directly to a health care provider to cover their primary care expenses, without passing through a third-party insurance mechanism. As Michigan Live reported earlier:
The idea is allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act. Theoretically a person could have a separate catastrophic health insurance plan for things like emergency room visits and a medical retainer agreement for primary care. […][Sen. Patrick] Colbeck has pointed to states like Washington as models for this type of care, and said it’s showing promise in reducing health care costs. The average medical retainer agreement costs a person between $10 and $75 per month and then may charge fees for procedures and tests, he said.
However, despite the role these agreements could play in bringing down costs (further evidence for that here), sometimes bureaucrats enforce rules that limit their promise, as happened in NYC. The bill that Snyder has signed stops that from happening by declaring that these agreements are not insurance and so are not subject to the same regulations. This is a small step, and certainly not something that will cure U.S. health care overnight. But it’s very much a step in the right direction, and cumulatively these kinds of reforms can accomplish the most important health care reform goal: making services cheaper.