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November 06, 2019

King Introduces Preventive Healthcare Bill Encouraging Routine Primary Care Visits

Bill directs insurance plans to allow 22 million Americans two deductible-free check-ups per year

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) introduced the Primary Care Patient Protection Act to allow consumers enrolled in high-deductible health plans (HDHP) to be covered for two yearly visits to primary care physicians. Under current law, individuals covered by HDHPs have a low premium, but higher costs for medical services – including primary care visits – before their insurance plan begins to cover expenses. As a result, individuals often can’t afford the routine visits to the doctor that could detect health concerns before they become larger problems. The Primary Care Patient Protection Act would require HDHPs to offer coverage for two primary care visits per year free of cost-sharing. Representatives Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“When I was a young man, I went to the doctor for a free checkup covered by my insurance and received some daunting news: I had serious, and potentially life-threatening, form of skin cancer,” said Senator King. “Without that visit, I would not be here today. It’s always haunted me, though, that somewhere in America – that same week – another young person, who had my condition but not my insurance, wasn’t able to catch their disease in time for treatment. I’m living proof that access to a primary care physician matters, and this legislation will make it easier for every American to receive the same lifesaving care that I did all those years ago.”

“The American Academy of Family Physicians applauds Sen. Angus King for introducing the Primary Care Patient Protection Act of 2019 to the Senate,” said Gary LeRoy, M.D., President of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “This bill takes the financial fear away from Americans who seek care from their primary care physicians. By allowing two no-cost primary care visits each year, the Primary Care Patient Protection Act helps ensure patients will get the care they need before they develop a condition that requires intensive, more costly attention.”

“High deductible health plans can be a harmfully high hurdle to the health of my patients,” said Dr. Patrick Connolly, Family Physician, Portland. “Too many of my patients with these plans are skipping their primary care visits and delaying care due to fear of out of pocket costs. The Primary Care Patient Protection Act helps ease these fears. By requiring that high deductible plans cover two visits a year at no extra cost to patients, Sen. King’s bill will reassure Maine patients that they can see their family doctor before they’ve met their deductible and before a health concern becomes a serious problem.”

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines a high-deductible health plan as any plan with a deductible of at least $1,350 for an individual or $2,700 for a family. An HDHP enrollee’s total yearly out-of-pocket expenses – including deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance – cannot be more than $6,650 for an individual or $13,300 for a family. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that those enrolled in an HDHP were more likely than those enrolled in traditional plan to forgo or delay medical care.

Senator King is a champion for prevention policies across the board – including advocating for the benefits and financial efficiency of proactive and preventive healthcare. Just last week, Senator King held a public event in Portland to remind Maine people to register during the current Open Enrollment Period for health care plans. At the end of October, he urged the federal government to evaluate the effectiveness of federal workplace wellness programs. Earlier that month, he hosted a panel discussion in Bangor with local healthcare providers and public wellness experts on the best ways to use prevention strategies to improve health outcomes and reduce costs. As a follow-up to the event, Senator King also focused his monthly “Inside Maine” podcast on the same topic. In May, Senator King introduced the Preventive Health Savings Act of 2019, which would direct the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to more accurately reflect the cost-savings of preventive healthcare, including health screenings. Under current law, the CBO only measures the budgetary impact of legislation in a ten-year timeframe; in contrast, the Preventive Health Savings Act would allow Congressional Committees reviewing healthcare legislation to request up to two additional ten-year projection windows to provide a better understanding of the legislation’s long-term effect on the nation’s healthcare spending.

In March, Senator King introduced the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, which incentivizes healthier living by allowing Americans to use a portion of the money saved in their pre-tax health savings accounts toward qualified sports and fitness purchases such as gym memberships. Also in March, he introduced legislation to help seniors and individuals with disabilities navigate the complex web of federal home modification programs; by investing in small changes like grab bars in the shower or a ramp in place of stairs, these Americans can reduce the risk of a serious fall that brings major expenses for both the individual and the Medicare and Medicaid systems. In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last November, he highlighted the importance of pursuing preventive healthcare measures to reduce overall healthcare costs for service members and veterans. 

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