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New Obamacare Perk: Free doctor visits

Patients with easy access to Harken’s clinics should be able to avoid trips to urgent care centers, retail clinics and emergency rooms, and develop a deeper relationship with their primary care doctor, Vanderheyden said.  “Better access…should mean better outcomes and happier people.”

Dave Sanders, CEO of Zoom+ and a physician, said offering free doctor visits at its modern clinics, should help attract young enrollees. “We are unabashedly focused on the millennial generation,” he said.

To that end, Zoom+ lets members make appointments using their smartphone app and its doctors emphasize changing diets before prescribing drugs.

Zoom+ has run clinics in the Portland area for the past year, but it’s never offered an insurance plan before. Members can get free care at the clinics or Zoom’s freestanding emergency room.

Under the health law, marketplace plans must cover a certain percentage of a member’s health costs with the amount varying based on gold, silver or bronze tiers. “What we have done is to spend the resources on primary care,” Sanders said.

Zoom+ also offers free mental health visits and one free dental visit for a cleaning.

Florida Blue, the state’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan, developed a new product for 2016 called myBlue which offers two free primary care doctor visits and then charges $1 a visit thereafter, $3 visits for specialists, free routine lab tests and free diabetic supplies. The myBlue plan was created to help people whose incomes qualify for the highest cost-sharing subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

To offer such benefits, Florida Blue developed a smaller network of doctors, hospitals and pharmacies so it could better control costs. But to encourage enrollment in Miami-Dade County it recently partnered with three CliniSanitas medical clinics, which primarily serve the Hispanic audience in the area. The plan is also available across South Florida, and counties around Tampa and Orlando.

Jon Urbanek, a senior vice president for Florida Blue, said the new plan is intended to increase the insurer’s market share. He said participating providers in the myBlue products are not necessarily paid less than other doctors but their pay is more closely tied to reaching certain quality targets such as cancer and cholesterol screenings. In six of the 10 counties where it’s available, the myBlue product offers the lowest premium. “We think our pricing positions us to do very well,” Urbanek said.

Molina Healthcare is offering zero copays for unlimited primary care doctor visits for one of its silver-tier plans for 2016. Unlike Florida Blue, it says it offers free doctor visits in its plans without using a narrow network of doctors and hospitals. “We really want folks to get value from their premium dollar and not have any barriers for care,” said Lisa Rubino, senior vice president at Molina.

Molina offers the zero copay doctor plans in Florida, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

By Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News

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Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Photo by Pete Souza licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

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