TAMPA, Fla. — Floridians with employee-based family health care insurance plans paid more for premiums than anywhere else in the country in 2020, according to a study published last month by The Commonwealth Fund.

While millions of Americans who can’t afford or access health insurance have had another option with the Affordable Care Act over the past eight years, an emerging movement has led to the creation of an alternative payment model called direct primary care.

Direct primary care facilities bypass insurance companies and instead offer patients health care services with an affordable membership fee.

What You Need To Know

  • Direct primary care enables primary care providers to bill patients directly for services rendered, bypassing health insurance companies

  • Florida law since 2020 allows nurse practitioners to independently operate primary care practices without an attending doctor

  • Hispanics have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S.

“A lot of times in the regular medical model, you go to make an appointment with your primary care physician and you have to wait anywhere between two weeks to a month-and-a-half sometimes to get seen for an urgent need or for your physical,” says Carolina Jones, a nurse practitioner with Vital Direct Primary Care in Tampa. “We’re trying to eliminate that.”

Jones grew up in the Sulphur Springs area of Tampa and received a master's degree in nursing from the University of South Florida. She's teamed up with fellow USF master's graduate Kenneth Argote to form the clinic, which officially opened in a strip mall off of Dale Mabry Highway in the Carrollwood area last week.

“A lot of medical providers are just getting tired of the way that traditional health care insurance makes primary care work, and they’re really seeing how primary care can do without it,” says Argote, who grew up in West Tampa and Town ‘n’ Country.

While they are open to anyone who is willing to pay the monthly $60 fee, Jones and Argote — who are both Latino —created the clinic especially for the Latino community, which has historically had lower levels of access to health care insurance than other demographics, yet represents 30% of all Hillsborough County residents.

“We want to help then so that they can fulfill their goals so that they’re not kind of the forgotten population, which unfortunately happens a lot,” said Jones.

Jones and Argote are both nurse practitioners. Legislation passed by state lawmakers and signed into law in 2020 allowed advanced nurse practitioners who have accumulated at least 3,000 hours of experience under physician supervision the right to independently operate primary care practices in Florida without an attending doctor.

“We can prescribe. We can diagnose. We can treat. We do follow-ups. We do urgent visits. We do well-women exams. We do sports physicals," Jones said. "I mean, really everything that encompasses primary care, we do that."

But what they offer that many other medical professionals don’t is direct access, particularly when a patient has health care questions.

“With us, we’ll either pick up the phone immediately, or we’ll call you back within an hour,” said Jones. “We want you to have that relationship, that liberty to feel free to ask us questions without feeling, ’Oh, I’m not going to hear anything.’”

You can learn more about the Vital Direct Primary Care by visiting their website, or by contacting their office at (813) 567-8321.