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Lawmakers push to streamline chronic disease management

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Bipartisan legislation introduced Thursday in the House of Representatives would increase access to chronic disease treatment by expanding what can be covered under high-deductible health plans prior to meeting the deductible.

The Access to Better Care Act of 2016, H.R. 5652, introduced by U.S. Reps. Diane Black, R-Tenn., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would give HDHPs with health savings accounts the option to cover drugs and services for chronic disease management before the deductible is reached.

Typically, only preventative services are fully covered pre-deductible in such HDHPs, while services to treat pre-existing conditions are covered only after the high deductible is met.

The American Benefits Council applauded the legislation.

“Given that 86 cents of every health care dollar is used to treat chronic conditions, it makes sense to remove barriers that make it harder for health plans to cover clinically proven services that help manage chronic conditions and improve quality of life. We need more common sense bills like this one,” the Council's President James A. Klein said Thursday in a statement.

“The expansion of coverage for essential medical services that treat the symptoms or prevent complications of chronic diseases mitigates the growing concern of cost-related underuse due to high deductibles,” Dr. A. Mark Fendrick, director of the University of Michigan's Center for Value-Based Insurance Design, said in a separate statement. “Giving plans the flexibility to improve access to chronic disease services aligns with value-based payment programs, reduces health care disparities, and most importantly improves patient-centered outcomes.”