Lawmakers emphasize prioritizing patients' needs in health care policy
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Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle on Thursday said focusing on patients' needs should play a bigger role in driving conversations on improving health care.

Speaking at The Hill’s “Prioritizing the Patient,” Rep. Larry BucshonLarry Dean BucshonLawmakers emphasize prioritizing patients' needs in health care policy The Hill's Morning Report - Democrats ready mammoth relief bill for 10-day sprint Overnight Health Care: Biden officials announce funding to track virus variants | Senate Dems unveil public option proposal | White House: Teacher vaccinations not required for schools to reopen MORE (R-Ind.) said the key to ensuring equitable health care to consumers is increasing transparency so that Americans are aware of the prices and quality care they will receive in advance.

Bucshon, who sits on the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health, told The Hill's Steve Clemons that hearing from providers can also help make the health care system more patient-focused.

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“More of the focus needs to go back on the patient, No. 1 ... but also get back to more input from the provider level for operational controlling, what works and what doesn't,” he said at the event, sponsored by Consumers for Quality Care.

Bucshon and Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) last month introduced the Immunization Infrastructure Modernization Act, which would boost information-sharing among states and the federal government, as well as public and private health care providers. The bill has not been taken up yet by the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Rep. Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyHHS expands Medicaid postpartum coverage for Illinois mothers up to a year after giving birth Democrats spar over COVID-19 vaccine strategy Lawmakers emphasize prioritizing patients' needs in health care policy MORE (D-Ill.), the vice chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee who also spoke at Thursday's event, highlighted the expansion of telehealth as a way to benefit patients, saying the technology could be a “great equalizer” in fighting disparities in health care.

“COVID has shone such a light on the disparities,” Kelly said. “The numbers that we see may be shocking, but they’re not surprising because the disparities have been with us forever.”

Throughout the pandemic, people of color and those with lower incomes have been at a disproportionately greater risk of contracting the virus than other communities. Those groups also have lower vaccination rates.

Kelly said she has spoken to doctors who have observed an increase in the number of patients coming to their appointments because of telehealth.

“Especially with seniors ... however the telehealth is done, it sends a powerful message,” she said.