After watching the pandemic exacerbate the need for improved access to behavioral health care, Gov. Charlie Baker doubled down Tuesday on a plan to force providers and insurers to inject up to $1.4 billion into the system over the next three years to remove barriers to care and reach people before they end up in emergency rooms.

The governor’s proposal would require providers and insurers to boost spending on primary and behavioral health care by 30 percent by 2025, penalize drug companies for “excessive” drug price increases, and target funding to primary and behavioral health providers that serve large volumes of patients on Medicaid.

Health Care for All Executive Director Amy Rosenthal also said Baker’s bill would take “important steps” toward addressing barriers to accessing affordable behavioral health care.

“We have long known that promoting overall health must include behavioral health care and, too often, we hear from people on our HelpLine who struggle to find a primary care physician or mental health provider who takes their insurance,” Rosenthal said in a statement. “Access to these vital services could help them stay healthy and avoid higher-cost treatments such as hospitalizations.”

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