As a physician, I’m trained to follow the facts, diagnose the problem, find a solution. It’s a fact that our healthcare system remains broken, with both rising costs and deductibles, and 28 million Americans still uninsured. While significant reform may have begun with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it by no means ended there. Despite the tens of millions of people who’ve benefitted from the ACA, its serious flaws must be addressed if we are to improve access to healthcare today as well as for generations to come.
We need a collaborative approach that addresses the twin pillars of expanded coverage and cost containment. Such a plan is only possible with ideas borrowed from both sides of the debate. I have seen firsthand the struggles of the uninsured as well as the direct, tangible benefits the ACA has brought to real peoples’ lives, and it’s too valuable to simply toss aside. Here are ways to strengthen and further improve the current state of our healthcare system.
- Protect the current, most beneficial and popular ACA provisions:
- Children can remain on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26;
- No higher premiums or deductibles imposed because of pre-existing conditions;
- Prohibit imposing annual and lifetime caps on healthcare benefits; and
- Maintain requirement that all marketplace plans cover basic healthcare services.
- Secure payment of cost-sharing reductions. This should help stabilize the healthcare marketplace by enhancing insurance companies’ confidence in their ability to optimally cover their insured customers’ needs. Encouraging insurance companies’ participation in the marketplace will help spur private sector competition as well.
- Expand Medicare. Medicare has proven to be a highly-effective, efficient, and well-liked plan to both consumers and healthcare providers. We should allow people under age 65 to buy into Medicare. This is especially important in areas of our country, such as most of Arizona, where choice of private insurance carriers is highly limited. Additionally, this helps people nearing retirement while lowering costs for those in the private insurance markets. And, it strengthens Medicare’s ability to negotiate lower drug prices for its customers as well as better rates with hospitals and medical practitioners.
- Drive healthcare coverage competition. We must look for innovative ways that have previously not existed, such as competition between the private sector and Medicare. This encourages creative solutions for cost containment as well as best practices for better patient outcomes.
Healthcare is a moral obligation, but it is never “free.” Everyone eventually needs healthcare, so everyone should have health insurance. The bottom-line is that a solution must be developed that includes expanding the risk pool with healthy individuals. Fiscally responsible, efficient practices within our healthcare system which lead to healthier Americans must be our goal, not scoring political points.
Progressives are concerned that too many people either remain uninsured or can’t afford good, quality healthcare. Conservatives say that too much regulation exists without enough private, free-market competition to keep costs down. There is truth to both perspectives, and good ideas can come from anywhere. Stop the partisanship. Stop administering Band-Aids. Face head-on the issues plaguing our healthcare system.