Dr. Michael Jennings is a compassionate family physician. Recognizing the rising cost and government burdens on healthcare affecting patients and doctors, Dr. Jennings sought to increase the convenience and reduce the cost and hassle of health care. That’s a good thing, right?
Not everyone thought so.
In 2011, the Utah Attorney General’s office and the Utah Division of Insurance began prosecuting Dr. Jennings for “selling insurance without a license.” You see, Dr. Jennings was contracting directly with his patients to care for their routine family medical needs. The State wanted to regulate this as “selling insurance” even though Dr. Jennings was only charging a low monthly fee that covered all routine family medical services, from colds and allergies, to chronic conditions like diabetes, and even broken bones.
The State claimed it was illegal for a doctor to have a direct agreement with his patients to provide for their care. Oh, how far government has deviated from freedom to assert that it is illegal for a doctor to conveniently treat his patients and help them save money for better care! This was unacceptable!
In 2012, I passed HB240, the Medical Retainer Agreements Act, which reestablishes an important measure of healthcare freedom in Utah. It enables caring physicians like Dr. Jennings to contract directly with their patients for more convenient and more affordable healthcare options. The bill passed unanimously through the House and Senate, and even garnered a few “Hallelujahs” in the Senate Committee. The governor signed it into law on March 15, 2012. It is no longer “illegal” for doctors throughout the state to provide affordable and convenient primary care options to their patients.
Legislators around the nation are working to follow our lead in Utah in this important area of healthcare freedom.
Also concerning health care, in the immediate wake of Congress’ lame duck passage (on purely partisan lines) of the Affordable Care Act (or ObamaCare), I passed HCR10 in 2013 that warns of the impacts of ObamaCare on Utah families, employees, employers, insurers, health care providers, and the state. The resolution urges our Congressional delegation to arrest the devastating impacts of ObamaCare using all means possible, including repeal of the act.
Sadly, just as we warned with my HCR10 resolution, federal attacks on healthcare freedom are turning out to be the opposite of “affordable,” and are putting our healthcare system in serious jeopardy. (See here, here, and here, for example).
Another area where I am working to increase access and convenience, and decrease the cost of healthcare is promoting telehealth in Utah. Telehealth employs advancing communications technology like videoconferencing, etc. to provide healthcare services remotely, whether across the street or across the state.
I currently serve as the chair of the Telehealth Working group. We are engaging with hospitals, healthcare providers, insurers, community health organizations and others to promote a telehealth environment in Utah that increases access, quality, convenience, continuity of care, safety and transparency, and decreases costs.
My bill HB340, Telehealth Revisions Act, was at the top of the Senate board this year when we adjourned. I am already working on bringing this legislation back next year to continue the important work of promoting healthcare freedom in Utah.