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Family Medicine Action Center

Protect Patients' Access to Virtual and Primary Care
As individuals, families, and employers struggle with the escalating costs of health care, many are seeking high deductible health plans (HDHP), as a means of securing affordable coverage. However, the deductibles associated with the plans are becoming an increasingly problematic hurdle to obtaining timely care, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Patients need access to primary care and family physicians for key preventive services, help managing their chronic conditions, and to address acute medical needs that, if left untreated, could result in an emergency room visit, hospitalization, or other avoidable costly outcomes.  

This is why the AAFP has endorsed H.R. 5541, the Primary and Virtual Care Affordability Act, bipartisan legislation which would extend access to telehealth services pre-deductible and also allow HDHPs to waive the deductible for critical primary care services. We are asking you to Speak Out and encourage your Representative to cosponsor H.R. 5541 today.  

When Congress passed the CARES Act last year in response to COVID-19, they temporarily allowed HDHPs to cover telehealth services pre-deductible; however, that flexibility will expire at the end of 2021. The AAFP supports preserving access to virtual care but has also advocated for parity in coverage for in-person primary care so that patients and physicians have the freedom to choose the most appropriate modality of care. The Primary and Virtual Care Affordability Act does both.

America‚Äôs Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) recently surveyed health plans about which services HDHPs should be able to cover pre-deductible, and 81% said that access to primary care office visits would improve patient satisfaction while another 64% said that permanently covering telehealth pre-deductible would. The survey also suggests that adding first dollar coverage of high-value services like primary care would not significantly raise premiums, likely because they ultimately decrease unnecessary utilization like avoidable hospitalizations. 

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