Legislation would allow subscription-style health care services

Alaskans would be able to more easily get subscription-style health care from their doctor or dentist if a bill passed by the Alaska Senate last week moves through the House next year and becomes law.

Under a “direct health care agreement,” also called “concierge care,” a customer agrees to buy a subscription to a doctor’s office. The doctor charges a monthly fee and in exchange the customer gets access to regular checkups or other services.

The Senate voted 18-2 to approve Senate Bill 45 from Wasilla Sen. David Wilson, sending the measure to the House for consideration. While there’s no easy fix for high health care costs, Wilson said, SB 45 would offer an alternative to health insurance.

SB 45 clarifies in state law that this type of arrangement isn’t regulated like insurance, and Wilson said he believes it can be a cheaper alternative to traditional health insurance.

“It is truly amazing how much less expensive health care can become when that third-party is removed,” he said, speaking about health insurance companies that act as intermediaries between a doctor and a patient.

The Alaska Dental Society testified in support of the bill, with the group saying that roughly half of dental patients don’t have dental insurance. A direct agreement could offer a way to provide services without an up-front bill or the administrative costs of insurance, it said.

“It’s a very interesting and new system,” said Anchorage Sen. Forrest Dunbar, one of the lawmakers who supported the bill.

Anchorage Sen. Cathy Giessel also voted in support of the bill but said Alaskans should be careful not to expect too much.

Giessel is an advanced practice registered nurse, and she questioned whether the bill will actually increase access to health care. An existing concierge care practice in Anchorage has extremely high costs, she noted.

“I do question whether this bill will increase any access to care,” she said. “There is nothing in this that would guarantee it.”

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization. Alaskabeacon.com.


Reader Comments(0)