October 01, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the coronavirus pandemic demonstrates the need for increased healthcare vigilance, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) introduced the Primary and Behavioral Health Care Access Act. Senator King’s legislation would require private insurance plans to cover three annual primary care visits and three annual outpatient mental health or outpatient substance use disorder treatment visits, without charging a copayment, coinsurance, or deductible-related fee. In doing so, this legislation also would catch smaller, or early health symptoms before they become larger threats requiring more extensive and expensive treatments.
“Right now, one in four Americans are skipping necessary medical care because they can’t afford it,” said Senator King. “This is absurdly backwards. By pricing so many Americans out of preventive healthcare visits, we are worsening health outcomes in the long run and increasing overall healthcare spending. The cheapest medical procedure is the one that doesn’t have to happen because the problem was caught early – which is why we need to make routine healthcare visits to primary care physicians, mental health professionals, and substance use counselors more accessible for all Americans. Benjamin Franklin famously said ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’, and this bill will take a sorely-needed step in that direction, helping Americans get ahead of their problems before they become more serious and expensive.”
Approximately one in four Americans skip necessary medical care because of costs. Out-of-pocket costs, which can be over $200 per visit, are a key barrier to seeking care. By reducing financial barriers for these visits, the Primary and Behavioral Health Care Access Act would help patients access the care they need to improve their health and well-being.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Senator King has pushed the federal government to act quickly and accurately act make sure Americans have access to the available science, systems, and care they need to stay healthy and stop the spread of the virus – including with his April recommendation to launch a government-wide testing effort to control the pandemic’s spread. Earlier this month, he joined eight of his Senate colleagues to raise concerns surfacing in reports that insured individuals are receiving unexpected bills for diagnostic coronavirus testing. In August, he wrote to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar calling out the Administration for its ongoing political interference in the coronavirus response.
Senator King has introduced the COVID-19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act to establish grants that could be used to support programs that use mobile health units or work through community-based organizations, provide coronavirus testing, conduct contact tracing, or offer assistance to individuals who quarantine after a positive test or contact with someone who has contracted the coronavirus. He also sent a letter urging Senate Appropriations leadership to fund a comprehensive program of testing, tracing, and supported isolation (TTSI). Senator King has also called for a bipartisan effort to increase the federal government’s share of Medicaid dollars as well as reduce premiums for individuals who are eligible for coverage in the ACA exchanges.
Senator King is a champion for prevention policies across the board – including advocating for the advantages and financial benefits of proactive and preventive healthcare. He has introduced the Preventive Home Visits Act, which would provide Medicare coverage for qualified care providers to assess the safety of seniors’ homes, and the Wellness and Education for Longer Lives (WELL) for Seniors Act, which would improve Medicare’s Annual Wellness Visit to encourage seniors and their physicians to work together and confront health issues before they become more serious. In October 2019, he hosted a prevention-focused 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. In November 2019, Senator King 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. In May 2019, Senator King introduced the Preventive Health Savings Act, which would direct the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to more accurately reflect the cost-savings of preventive healthcare, including health screenings.