On Jan. 15, 2015, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a bill that state Medical retainer agreements between physicians and patients will not be considered “insurance” in Michigan.

According to an article I read in Michigan Capitol Confidential titled "Governor Signs Bill Freeing Up Market Approach to Health Care," apparently State Sen. Pat Colbeck, R-Canton, and Sen. Mike Nofs's, R-Battle Creek, bill that was signed believe more government regulation is needed for these types of contracts.

What is a "medical retainer?"

As the article stated, "Under medical retainer agreements, patients make monthly payments to a physician who in return agrees to provide a menu of routine services at no extra charge. Because no insurance company stands between patient and doctor, the hassles and expense of bureaucratic red tape are eliminated, which have resulted in dramatic cost reductions. Routine primary care services (and the bureaucracy required to reimburse them) are estimated to consume 40 cents out of every dollar spent on insurance policies, so lower premiums for a given amount of coverage are another potential benefit."

Many believe the reason to have this type of insurance is that it is more affordable for covering routine primary and preventative care. You would still need to carry a policy for catastrophic illnesses and injuries, but this would cost less than a policy that covers everything the Unaffordable Care Act makes you cover.

The bill that Gov. Snyder signed was Senate Bill 1033, now Public Act 552 of 2014, sponsored by Sen. Pat Colbeck, R-Canton, and Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, and it defines a “medical retainer agreement” as “a contract between a health care provider and an individual patient or his or her legal representative in which the health care provider agrees to provide routine heath care services to the individual patient for an agreed upon fee and period of time.”

According to the Michigan Capitol Confidential, "The measure specifies that to be considered a ‘medical retainer agreement,’ the agreement must:

  • Be in writing.
  • Be signed by the health care provider or agent of the health care provider and the individual patient or his or her legal representative.
  • Allow either party to terminate the agreement on written notice to the other party.
  • Describe and quantify the specific routine health care services that are included in the agreement.
  • Specify the fee for the agreement.
  • Specify the period of time under the agreement.
  • Prominently state in writing that the agreement is not health insurance.
  • Prohibit the health care provider and the patient from billing an insurer or other third party payer for the services provided under the agreement.
  • Prominently state in writing that the individual patient must pay the provider for all services not specified in the agreement and not otherwise covered by insurance.

Under the legislation, routine health care service means screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment to promote health or detect and manage disease or injury; medical supplies and prescription drugs dispensed in the health care provider’s office; and lab work including routine blood tests or pathology screening."

Why would state Senators Colbeck and Nofs — who claim they are Republicans — not approve of a free-market based approach, such as this?

Would you sign a medical retainer contract if it offered you the same level or better health care access and coverage and ended up being cheaper?

Let’s us discuss this today on my show the Live with Renk show, which airs Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to noon, to let me know your thoughts at (269) 441-9595.

Or please feel free to start a discussion and write your thoughts in the comment section.