NEWARK — Gov. John Carney on Friday signed Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 120, legislation aimed at strengthening primary care in Delaware.
Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, was the primary sponsor of the bill. State Rep. David Bentz, D-Christiana, was an additional sponsor.
“The priority in Delaware is to keep people healthy in the health care system,” said Sen. Townsend. “The way to do that is to invest more in primary care to keep people healthy on the front end rather than wait for people to be unhealthy on the back end.”
SS 1 for SB 120 requires commercial health insurance companies to make meaningful increases in their primary care investment and limits price increases for hospital and other non-professional services.
Other co-sponsors of the bill, who were on hand outside of the Medical Society of Delaware on Friday, said it will compel health insurance companies and health systems to work together to improve health care value.
The bill’s intention is to promote value-based health care.
“It’s another step and another tool in the toolkit for a stronger, healthier Delaware,” said Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long. “Putting more funds in preventative health is the right way to go.”
SS 1 for SB 120 will require an insurance carrier to spend a certain percentage of its total cost on primary care over the next four years.
The groundwork for the bill was started with a report by the Delaware Department of Insurance and its Office of Value-Based Health Care Delivery, created by the General Assembly in 2019. Those two agencies were tasked with implementing the legislation, creating necessary regulations and enforcing its measures.
SS 1 for SB 120’s sponsors said the Office of Value-Based Healthcare Delivery began an extensive data collection and stakeholder engagement process in 2020, which included data from Delaware health insurers, the Delaware Health Information Network Health Care Claims Database, publicly available sources and perspectives shared during more than two dozen stakeholder interviews.
The research found primary care spending in Delaware is low relative to the national average and about half of what is spent in leading states. It said the low investment in primary care services has likely contributed to declining numbers of primary care providers and poor access to primary care statewide.
SS 1 for SB 120’s increases in primary care access looks to lead to improvements in health and decreases in mortality, as well as lower rates of emergency department visits and hospital admissions.
“Primary care really is the most trusted relationship in the health care system,” said Molly Magarik, secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. “From the patient’s trust of their pediatrician, to them being older and potentially having to manage multiple chronic conditions, it is the primary care clinician by their experience, training, empathy and compassion that really creates a profound relationship that keeps people healthy. This legislation validates that relationship and invests in it so it can continue into the future.”