November 11, 2019 03:10 pm News Staff – A newly introduced Senate bill would be a significant step toward breaking down economic barriers for family physicians' patients, the Academy said this week -- particularly those enrolled in high-deductible health plans.
The Primary Care Patient Protection Act of 2019 (S. 2793) "takes the financial fear away from Americans who seek care from their primary care physicians," AAFP President Gary LeRoy, M.D., of Dayton, Ohio, said in a Nov. 6 statement.
The bill -- introduced Nov. 6 by Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and timed to the Nov. 1 kickoff of open enrollment on healthcare.gov and state health insurance marketplaces -- would allow two no-cost primary care visits each year for people with high-deductible health plans.
If enacted, S. 2793 "will ensure that individuals and families are able to prioritize their health and well-being independent of the economic limitations established by their health plan," the Academy told King in a Nov. 6 letter(2 page PDF) signed by Board Chair John Cullen, M.D., of Valdez, Alaska.
In that correspondence, the AAFP outlined the challenges facing millions of Americans who need better access to affordable primary care. A Commonwealth Fund study, for example, noted that a significant percentage of adults with HDHPs and a deductible of $3,000 or more had reported problems getting needed care because of cost -- with 30% saying they'd ridden out a medical problem without seeing their physician or clinic because of the associated cost.
Meanwhile, according to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, among adults ages 18-64 with employment-based coverage, the percentage enrolled in a traditional plan decreased from 85.1% in 2007 to 56.6% in 2017. Over the same decade, the percentage enrolled in an HDHP increased from 14.8% in to 43.4%.
Regardless of the type of health insurance, the Academy added, Americans have seen the cost of their coverage rise sharply.
"The average premium for employer-sponsored coverage for a family of four now exceeds $20,000, and employee contributions to this coverage exceeds $6,000 annually, the letter said, citing recent research.
With those and similarly compelling numbers in mind, the Academy last year voiced strong support for a similar House bill, which was reintroduced this year as H.R. 2774 and also would allot two no-cost primary care visits for patients with HDHPs.
Such a provision promotes timeliness and continuity of care as a safeguard against expensive ER visits and other effects of delayed medical attention, the Academy said.
"By providing individuals the ability to secure visits with their primary care physician independent of cost-sharing requirements, you place the health and well-being of patients ahead of the economic barriers they otherwise may face in obtaining that care," the Academy wrote to King.
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