It’s About Health Care, Not Health Insurance


Health care reform discussions almost always revolve around health insurance, as if care and insurance are synonymous. Understanding the difference can lead to the delivery of better care for less money, and help break the health care reform logjam in Congress.

An amendment introduced this week by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell to America’s Healthy Future Act, currently being considered by the Senate Finance Committee, understands the difference. Senator Cantwell’s amendment would provide for coverage in a ‘direct primary care medical home’ plan, provided that plan is coupled with a quality wrap-around insurance program to cover non-primary care services.

What are direct primary care medical homes? They are primary care practices offering patients comprehensive primary care coverage outside of the traditional insurance system. They provide preventive and primary care, as well as chronic disease management and coordination of care with specialists and hospitals. Patients who elect this health care delivery model pay a flat monthly fee (ranging from $49 to $79 at my affiliated practice, Seattle-based Qliance Medical Group) for unlimited access to a primary care physician. This monthly fee covers everything from regular check-ups, women’s health exams, sprained ankles and broken arms to flu shots, and arthritis or diabetes management.

Direct primary care medical homes are already accomplishing what everyone wants health care reform to do:

• Lower costs

• Improve access

• Increase the quality of care

As a nation, we spend over $2 trillion a year on health care. We want to improve access, lower costs and expand quality coverage to the almost 50 million people who are currently uninsured – but we need to find a way to do this without breaking the bank.

There are ways to lower the overall cost of health care. An astonishing 40 percent of every dollar spent on primary care goes toward paperwork – either on the provider or insurer side – to complete the insurance reimbursement process. By eliminating the insurance payment mechanism and forming a direct relationship between a provider and patient, direct primary care medical homes have more resources available to spend on patient care.

The savings allow practices to offer more providers and longer office hours, even opening seven days per week. Smaller patient loads enable … Next Page »

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Norm Wu is the CEO of i-Human Patients, a health IT/e-learning company. Follow @

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5 responses to “It’s About Health Care, Not Health Insurance”

  1. Qliance sounds like a great idea. As a member of the Community Acupuncture Network (, we too are circumventing the insurance model, offering low-cost treatments ($15-$40 sliding scale) without any paperwork/approval hassles. All, while providing the same high quality care people have always expected and deserve. Currently, there are 7 community acupuncture clinics in the Seattle area and almost 100 across the United States. Good job Qliance – The public needs a reasonable, affordable alternative for primary healthcare.

  2. Audrey says:

    Government run health care – the so-called “public option” – presents serious challenges for us. The private sector and competitive market forces are the best means to meeting health care needs. Watch this video from the U.S. Chamber

  3. Bell Ayers says:

    Cities, counties, states would be financially better off to deliver health care directly to uninsured than to put them in “health insurance” that may or may not provide care with greater expense. Public clinics and public health initiatives can help stem costs by direct care and education…removing much of the very expensive administrative costs. Health insurance has never equated with health care.