Legislative Council Study Committee Holds First Hearing Examining Direct Primary Care

July 31, 2018

The Wisconsin Legislative Council Study Committee on Direct Primary Care (DPC) held its first hearing July 24. The committee listened to a variety of panelists that included:

  • Direct primary care physicians in Wisconsin and other states
  • The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance
  • The UW Population Health Institute
  • The Wisconsin Council on Medical Education and Workforce
Committee members heard testimony on how typical direct primary care practices function, how Wisconsin insurance law effects DPC, how DPC may impact the physician shortage, and what studies or statistics are available on these types of practices.

Bob Van Meeteren, President and CEO of Reedsburg Area Medical Center, is a member of the Legislative Council Study Committee. Van Meeteren outlined a number of important patient safety safeguards – such as physician privileging/credentialing and peer review – that exist in health systems today, and noted his desire for the Committee to consider patient safety first and foremost when making any recommendations. Maureen McNally, Chief of Staff for the Office of the President and CEO at Froedtert Health, remarked that today’s health systems and insurers have to deal with all types of patients in their hospitals and risk pools; she wondered whether DPC practices have similar, sicker, or healthier patients on average.

Members of the DPC panels said they may use similar credentialing and privileging processes, but also rely on patient satisfaction as a form of safeguard. They also see all types of patients, but are not aware of studies comparing them to traditional insurance pools. Many of the DPC panelists suggested their smaller patient panels, which allow them to spend more time on average with patients, are one benefit to this type of practice. However, the UW Population Health Institute acknowledged they are currently not aware of studies or evidence suggesting that longer time spent with patients leads to better outcomes.

The Legislative Council Study Committee also explored what impact having more physicians on smaller patient panels might have on the current healthcare workforce shortage. George Quinn, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council on Medical Education and Workforce, said it is unclear whether such a model would exacerbate the physician shortage or if it might lead to lower burnout among physicians who stay and practice longer instead of retiring.

After the presentations, Committee Chair Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) asked members which topics they would like to cover for the next hearing, which is scheduled August 29. The Committee suggested exploring last session’s bill that was introduced, hearing from employers and insurers that currently utilize DPC agreements, and getting updates from other states that have passed DPC pilots. WHA will continue to share information from Committee hearings.

This story originally appeared in the July 31, 2018 edition of WHA Newsletter