The future of health care reform is now
For too many Americans, health care is a burdensome system marked by high medical costs and limited access to personalized care. Access to care should be independent of an individual’s background or zip code. All Americans — from rural communities to urban neighborhoods — deserve a 21st century health care system that prioritizes patients over payments and innovation over bureaucracy.
Now that Republicans have won the majority in the House of Representatives, the GOP has a unique opportunity to move forward with a confident, innovative health care agenda. And with 18 medical professionals in its ranks, the House majority is well-positioned to work with its Democratic colleagues to propose commonsense reform — patient-centered health care policy that truly addresses the public’s concerns.
Leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, nearly 90 percent of voters said that a candidate’s ideas on lowering health care costs was “very important” or “somewhat important” in winning their vote. Health care is not a second-tier issue. Americans understand that medical innovation and access to care are connected to virtually every other important issue impacting their families, their jobs, and the economy.
If our goal is good health care for all Americans, no matter their background, we’re optimistic about what can be accomplished — even with a divided government in Washington, D.C.
If members of Congress decide to be intentional and cooperative, we’re convinced that reform is possible — but of course, everyone will not get everything they want. If we embrace a stance of “radical incrementalism,” we can all get where we want to go with continuous, measured forward motion without the revolutionary leaps in laws that have left us with so many problems in the past. We believe that what could pass a divided Congress are some essential, achievable reforms that will make life easier for our families and neighbors. Let’s take a look at a universe of potential reforms.
Commitment to America Health Reforms:
- Enabling states to approve a wider variety of health plans to facilitate more competition and affordability
- Encouraging more portable health coverage
- Giving small businesses more options for competitively priced insurance for their employees
- Making Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) accessible to more people to personalize their health care and save for future needs
- Removing barriers for employers to participate in direct contracting, high-performance networks, and centers of excellence
- Providing greater access to new technologies sooner
- Speeding approval of new treatments
- Empowering patients with more choices of plans and doctors, ownership of their health records, and more accessible ways to get quality care, including telehealth
Healthy Future Task Force Solutions to Modernize Health Care:
- Implementing out-of-pocket caps on prescription drug spending for Medicare beneficiaries and allowing them to spread those costs over the course of a year
- Accelerating the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process to deliver innovative treatments to patients more swiftly
- Making some of the regulatory flexibilities of the COVID-19 public health emergency permanent fixtures in the health care infrastructure
- Incentivizing greater domestic production of medicines and medical supplies to mitigate supply chain disruptions
Other Health Care Priorities:
- Examining long-term solutions to addressing Physician payment reform
- Protecting access to health coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions
- Expanding digital health and telehealth innovations
- Reforming the patent system to get more generics and biosimilars to market
- Lessening the burden and reducing the costs of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) insurance market regulations
- Expanding access to short-term health plans, which are not subject to the ACA’s restrictions
- Roll back the pharmaceutical price controls in the Inflation Reduction Act
- Stop middlemen from shifting drug costs onto patients (i.e., incentivize rebates to be shared directly with patients)
There is no shortage of ideas to make health care more affordable and accessible. The challenge now is to govern — we can start with proposals holding the broadest bipartisan support, like expanding telehealth and lowering the cost of medicines.
- Telehealth services allow patients to visit with their doctors from the comfort and sanctuary of their homes. For patients, telehealth requires no time off from work or scheduling childcare. Weather and transportation are non-factors, making it easier to keep appointments. And telehealth helps us provide care to our country’s ‘healthcare deserts’ in rural and urban communities. Telemedicine offers more personal control, greater access to care, and lower medical costs. The pandemic made telehealth services widely available to the public. Let’s make it permanent and expand all the telehealth reforms temporarily implemented during the COVID crisis. It worked and is working, and both Republicans and Democrats support it.
- Operation Warp Speed proved that when the public sector (such as Health and Human Services and FDA) and the private sector (such as pharmaceutical companies) work together, ‘medical miracles’ are possible. Using Operation Warp Speed as a model, Congress must reform the FDA’s drug approval process to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. Streamlining worked wonders during the pandemic in bringing COVID-19 vaccinations to market. Everyone on both sides of the political divide cheered (and took credit for) its success. Let’s do it again by bringing the FDA into the 21st century. Why are we still governing how medicine gets to patients with last century’s rules and regulations? Warp Speed should be the rule, not the exception.
Our solutions to our biggest health care challenges — access and cost — have the benefit of being both workable and popular — and bipartisan. Americans are growing impatient with politicians and are eager for reforms that will make high-quality health care more accessible and affordable. Congress must seize the opportunity. If not, it’s no wonder why members of Congress rank lower than journalists and car salesmen for honesty and ethics. Congress must make good on its promises to ‘fix healthcare’. We’re optimistic that real change is coming.
Dr. Michael Burgess spent nearly three decades practicing medicine in North Texas before being elected to Congress in 2003. He serves on the House Rules Committee as vice chairman, Energy and Commerce Committee, and Budget Committee. Eric Hargan is the founder and CEO of The Hargan Group, a health care consulting firm. He previously served as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2017-21) and acting secretary (2017-18). He is on the boards of university hospitals in Cleveland, Alio Medical, Tomorrow Health, HealthTrackRx and SIU Medicine Department of Population Science & Policy.
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