One of the most important issues this election is health care reform. My goals for Healthcare legislation are as follows:
1. Improve access to healthcare
2. Make healthcare more affordable
3. Improve the quality of healthcare
While the recent Affordable Care Act appears to improve access to healthcare, I am concerned about the cost. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, this legislation will add $1.8 Trillion to our healthcare delivery system, which translates to higher costs for Americans. According to a recent article in the New York Times, health care insurance premiums are rising at a rate faster than inflation and wages. This is unsustainable.
Middle class families and young adults will be faced with increasingly expensive health insurance. Rising costs will likely chip away at their disposable income, negatively impact existing quality of life and reduce investing in their retirements and their children’s futures.
If we are to ensure high quality, affordable health care, we must be pragmatic and forward thinking in our approach. Both sides must confront the problems inherent in their current approaches to this important issue. Republicans must realize that the Affordable Care Act may never be repealed, especially now that the Supreme Court has upheld the law’s constitutionality. And Democrats must take a realistic look at the effects the PPACA is having on the health insurance markets.
It is in the best interest of all Americans and of both political parties to do everything possible to increase accessibility to health care—not just health insurance—by truly working to drive costs down to make health care affordable once again. It is estimated we spend $2 trillion on health care annually. Health care costs account for fully one sixth of the U.S. economy, and that figure is rising.
Health care reform is one of the most important issues of our time. And it’s complex. But above all, it is personal. Health care decisions for one’s self and one’s family members are often fraught with emotion. That’s why I believe health care decisions should, to the greatest extent possible, be left to those closest to the situation - the doctor and their patient. To make this a reality, health care reform should strive for greater empowerment of the individual. There are some ideas we could implement right now that would go far to making that happen. Here are a few:
Government should remove the legal hurdles that impede the institution of high-deductible health insurance plans and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Some forward thinking companies, such as Whole Foods, offer Personal Wellness Accounts to their employees. These type of programs enable people to spend on the health and wellness of their choosing, including covering their deductible. Unspent funds can roll over year to year, leading people to spend their money more carefully. This connects the consumer directly to the service, and helps drive down health plan costs while providing a higher level of employee involvement and satisfaction.
Currently, employer-provided health benefits are fully tax deductible. Individual provided health insurance is not, however. Individuals should have the same tax benefits companies have.
We should be able to purchase insurance across state lines, encouraging insurance companies to compete for our business, and the insurance should be portable. We should be able to use our insurance wherever we live or travel.
Tort reform would go far toward reducing the cost of healthcare. Currently, doctors often pay insurance costs that rise into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These sky-high insurance rates are passed directly to the consumer in the form of higher costs for health care.
The costs of health care services should be transparent so consumers know what they’re paying for. Do you know what the cost breakdown of your last doctor’s visit looks like? Or where, exactly, all that money goes?
During the last two and a half years we have already seen scarcity of access to health care increase with some doctors refusing to accept new Medicaid patients. In Canada and the UK, both countries with national health systems, patients are forced to wait on waiting lists before they receive care. In Canada, which has a population smaller than California’s, the average wait time for treatment by a medical specialist is 9.5 weeks, which costs Canada about $1 billion per year in lost worker productivity.
While most of us recognize that some type of healthcare safety net is required, and appropriate, each adult is ultimately responsible for his or her own health.
Sadly, many of our health care problems are self-induced. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight and one-third of America is obese. 70% of all health care spending can be traced to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. Many of these can be avoided with proper diet and exercise.
More reform of our health care laws is needed. Future reforms must be financially responsible, improve access, and improve the quality of care.