Healthcare impacts all of our lives, even if you’ve been healthy every day of your life. Too many have been forced to declare bankruptcy because of healthcare bills. We know deep down that it’s not right for anyone to have their entire life be up for grabs because of a medical condition and the bills associated with it. We have to tackle this as a country because doing nothing wasn’t working.
Obamacare was designed to decrease the number of uninsured Americans, decrease out-of-pocket expenses, and drive down the high cost of healthcare. It failed at the last two objectives.
Since taking over the White House and having control over Congress, the Republicans have made healthcare more expensive and less accessible over the last two years. They’ve also increased the number of uninsured Americans by 3.2 million, which will only further increase the cost of health insurance for those in the marketplace.
How do we tackle the high cost of healthcare?
The first step is to target the high cost of pharmaceuticals. Policies to accomplish this include:
- Expanding federal price-negotiating power to Medicare
- Allowing imports from safe markets like Canada
- Reforming the 340B Drug Pricing Program, which would require hospitals and clinics to pass on their savings to patients, insurers, and the uninsured.
In passing any pharmaceutical price reforms, it is vital to offset research and development costs for new drugs, including vaccines, at least in the short term. Creating industry regulations for the marketing of prescription drugs may assist companies in this regard. Who isn’t tired of the nearly non-stop drug commercials?
Access remains a stubborn issue in rural America; 20% of Americans live in rural America and only 10% of physicians work there. Add to this that more rural Americans have poor health and have a propensity to have more complex conditions, and the issues with healthcare access loom large.
How do we increase the number of physicians?
- Increasing funding for education programs for non-physician clinicians (PAs, NPs, etc.)
- Granting them practice authority after significant experience and further education will help expand primary care availability and access while reducing costs.
- Providing increased telehealth resources
- Passing the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact
- Utilizing and expanding school-based healthcare systems
Hospitals also need to work more closely with community organizations to better determine health needs in their area. Wait times are too long for too many specialities. To help bridge this gap, we can provide increased telehealth resources, which will allow a specialist to connect to both a patient and on the ground doctors. The federal government should pass the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. This will allow providers from other states to use telehealth networks across state lines.
Over the last decade there has been increased walk-in clinics popping up in certain areas of the 15th District, but not enough. Some clinics don’t accept Medicaid, but the connecting ER does, raising the cost for taxpayers. This practice must be ended.
Another option that will increase healthcare access is to utilize school-based health centers. Schools already supply breakfast and lunch in some of our most food insecure communities. Providing increased healthcare access is the next logical step.
Also, schools have often underutilized resources, such as the school counselor. We need a renewed focus on counseling in schools, with more robust programs that focus on wellness, communication, and mental health. Starting early will yield results that decrease healthcare costs over the course of a lifetime.
Mental health care access is an issue nearly everywhere. Psychiatric wait times are extreme. Travel time to mental health clinics is also a barrier to treatment.
We have to make mental health care a priority.
- Expanding existing clinical programs in social work, counseling, and psychiatry to increase the professional pipeline
- Creating satellite offices in rural communities without treatment centers
- Strengthening public school counseling centers
It is clear that healthcare costs in America are too high, out of pocket expenses are rising, and the party in power has no answers that don’t exacerbate these problems. Any reforms must be done with precision because lives are on the line. The savings produced from these proposals will offset the costs for consumers. Those savings will produce economic gains throughout the country producing more revenue.
Investing in the health and wellbeing of people benefits the public health and the economy. We’re creating jobs with higher wages while helping many Americans became better able to work. With welfare reform, many Americans will be able to get back to work while living with chronic conditions and mental health issues. This must be the goal of any healthcare reforms.