- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed a series of steps on Wednesday to lessen the burden of out-of-pocket medical bills for Americans covered by President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The Democratic presidential candidate said she would require plans to provide three sick visits a year without counting toward a patient’s annual deductible, a provision that would apply to both private health plans and those covered through the so-called Obamacare law. She said many Americans are forced to pay a significant cost out-of-pocket if they get sick because average deductibles have more than doubled during the past decade.

Clinton would offer a refundable tax credit of up to $5,000 for families not eligible for Medicare for excessive out-of-pocket health care costs.

And her plan aims to protect Americans from unexpected medical bills and help states prevent insurance companies from imposing excessive rate increases.

“When Americans get sick, high costs shouldn’t prevent them from getting better,” Clinton said in a statement. “With deductibles rising so much faster than incomes, we must act to reduce the out-of-pocket costs families face. My plan would take a number of steps to ease the burden of medical expenses and protect health care consumers.”

Clinton has rolled out a series of policies to hold down the rising cost of prescription drugs, placing a monthly cap of $250 on covered out-of-pocket drug costs to help patients with chronic or serious health conditions. She has also vowed to defend Obama’s health care law, which has faced repeated repeal attempts by Republicans.

Michael Short, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said Clinton’s proposals would give the federal government more control over the nation’s health care system. “Obamacare is wreaking havoc with higher premiums, lost doctors, and cancelled plans, and Hillary Clinton would make it even worse,” he said.

Clinton’s proposals seek to address many Americans who face high health care costs even after paying premiums because of rising deductibles. Clinton’s campaign noted a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey that found the average deductible is more than $1,300 for single coverage. Since 2010, deductibles have risen about seven times faster than workers’ wages, the survey found.

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