Why Primary Care is Essential

January 16, 2016

Rutland Herald

The commentary “Primary care for all” describes two bills which propose to build a system of universal primary care in Vermont. These are H.207 and S.88.

As I learned the difficult way through a near fatal experience some years ago, access to primary care is vital. Without it, problems can go either undetected or are put off by costs or insane insurance complexities until they require costlier care or become life threatening. The latter instance is what happened to me. I was working for an employer in Vermont and had health insurance through them. This finally allowed me to have a primary care doctor that I could call my own, the first one I had in 20 years.

Yet just as something was starting to go bad inside me, the company switched health insurers, throwing my primary care doctor into the land of “out-of-network.” I could visit this doctor, but only at the uninsured price — far higher, of course, than the insured rates. The new insurer, an out-of-state outfit, possessed few networked primary care doctors in Vermont. The disease had months to grow before I found another primary care doctor under the new insurance. By then, it was almost too late.

These proposals offer a universal public service for the public good. According to the commentary the cost for universal primary care will be minimal — just a little more than we spend now (about $48 more per Vermonter per year), while eliminating far more than its weight in those pesky out-of-pocket costs for primary care which so successfully stymie access. It will also lower premium rates: Insurers cannot charge for something already paid for. This is paying for something to get something better in return.

Best of all, there will be no out-of-network primary care doctors.

Walter Carpenter