A new bill from Illinois Rep. Lauren Underwood aims to help Americans see their doctors more often, requiring insurance companies to cover three trips to primary care doctors and three outpatient mental health or substance use disorder visits each year, without charging copays or fees under deductibles.
According to Underwood’s office, nearly one in four Americans tend to skip necessary medical care because of associated costs, which can be more than $200 per visit. And in the last decade, deductibles have increased from $303 in 2006 to over $1,200 in 2016 on average.
“It’s pretty simple: Out-of-pocket health care costs are too high, and they keep too many people from seeking the care they need. Especially after the first of the year when deductibles have reset, Illinoisans are asked to pay hundreds of dollars out of their pockets just to see their primary care doctor for a cold or get treatment for a mental health condition like anxiety, depression, or addiction—the kind of care that benefits individuals, but also keeps our communities well,” Underwood, who is also a trained nurse, said in a statement.
In a statement, Rep. Kim Schrier (D-Wash.), who joined Underwood in introducing the bill, said she saw many patients worry about costs through her work as a physician.
“I’ve seen patients delay care because of the cost of an office visit, and no family should have to decide between taking their child to the doctor and putting food on the table,” Schrier said in a statement.
According to The American Academy of Family Physicians, there is strong evidence that access to primary care has a positive impact on overall health. And while having a lower income can be tied to worse health outcomes, access to primary care has been shown to bridge the gap and lower the rate of mortality and hospitalization. This is especially true in areas where income inequality is highest.
The new legislation has been endorsed by local and national medical groups, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Illinois Association of Behavioral Health.