Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed Wednesday to guarantee Americans three doctor visits annually that would not count against a patient’s insurance plan “deductible,” the threshold amount patients must pay out of pocket before some insurance plans kick in.
The Democratic presidential candidate is also proposing a tax credit to help offset other out-of-pocket medical costs for Americans squeezed by rising patient-borne costs for doctor visits, prescription drugs and other medical expenses.
The changes would be part of Clinton’s expansion of the Affordable Care Act, a signature domestic initiative of President Obama that Clinton is running to preserve and extend. Clinton has also proposed a $250 monthly cap on out-of-pocket drug costs for patients with chronic and serious illnesses.
Most of her proposed changes would require further legislation, an unlikely proposition under a Republican-led Congress. Congressional Republicans have voted scores of times to repeal the 2010 law often known as Obamacare. Although Clinton says the law “is here to stay,” she also predicted in an interview with the Des Moines Register on Tuesday that Democrats may be able to retake control of the Senate in 2016 but not the House.
She unveiled the prescription drug cap in Iowa on Tuesday, and her campaign released details about other elements of her health-care overhaul on Wednesday.
“For too many, their out-of-pocket medical costs are growing much faster than their wages, meaning too much of their hard-earned take-home pay goes to paying deductibles, copays and coinsurance for medical expenses,” Clinton’s campaign said in a statement.
The campaign cited a Kaiser Family Foundation survey this week that found the average deductible this year is $1,318 for single coverage. That out-of-pocket cost has grown seven times faster than workers’ wages since 2010, the Kaiser study said.
The three “sick visits” would ensure that people who take ill could see a doctor for treatment they might otherwise skip for fear of running up a bill, the campaign said. More and more health plans require significant deductibles – hundreds or even thousands of dollars in some cases – for such unplanned doctor visits.
“No one should have to worry about paying large out-of-pocket costs when they get sick and need a checkup during the year, whether it’s a common cold or a more harmful illness,” Clinton’s campaign said.
The refundable tax credit of up to $5,000 for families or $2,500 for individuals is meant to address the hardship of large medical bills even despite Clinton’s plans to relieve drug costs, her campaign said.
“The credit will be available to insured Americans with qualifying out-of-pocket health expenses in excess of five percent of their income, and who are not eligible for Medicare or claiming existing deductions for medical costs,” the campaign said.