September 29, 2022

(The Center Square) – A new online health care hub aims to help provide information on direct patient care (DPC) clinics across Montana.

The new hub, called the “Free Market Healthcare Hub,” is ran by the Frontier Institute, a free-market think tank based in Helena.

The Montana Legislature passed the most expansive DPC authorization in the nation in 2021, according to Tanner Avery, the group’s communications director.

Sen. Cary Smith, R-Billings, sponsored Senate Bill 101, which authorized DPC agreements. DPC lets patients enter into agreements with doctors and pay them directly for health care, instead of going through an insurance company.

“It has been a year since Gov. [Greg] Gianforte signed SB 101 into law. And since then, direct patient care has taken off,” Avery said.

Smith told KGVO that a recent analysis showed the DPC legislation was having a positive impact on the state.

The Free Market Healthcare Hub matches where verified DPC clinics are. It also provides other tools Montanans can use to shop for health care, such as other providers that embrace price transparency and free-market principles.

“Free market health care is a model of health care where patients directly pay providers who embrace price transparency. This is also commonly referred to as direct primary care or direct patient care,” Avery said.

Payment for those services usually takes the form of a low-cost membership, similar to a gym membership, he said.

“What makes free market health care or direct patient care so unique is that without the documentation, coding and billing of insurance, direct care practices are able to regularly post the real cost of services on the website, not just estimates,” Avery said.

The membership model gives patients access to other services, such as office appointments and consultations, usually at no cost.

“This model, what we really liked about it is that it also frees up medical entrepreneurs to innovate freely without the red tape from overzealous regulators,” he said.

The Frontier Institute verified that there are at least 16 DPC clinics in Montana, with an average membership cost of $77/month, according to Avery.

DPC will help anyone looking to save money on health care, he noted.

Montana’s law is more expansive than what other states passed because it allows for all types of providers, not just primary care, according to Avery.

“There is a pharmacy up in northwestern Montana and they’re actually doing the DPC model, so all their prices are posted online,” he said.

Specialty care clinics also have options. Mountain State Diabetes in Missoula is a DPC clinic with its primary care model for diabetes patients.