For many Americans, the extent to which government decisions impact our lives has become more and more evident, particularly in the debate over healthcare. Based on a majority of voters ranking health care as the most important issue during the 2018 midterm elections, healthcare reform promises to be a top issue going into the 2020 election. Now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many are asking: how will this pandemic change the healthcare system?
Understanding the Debate
Healthcare reform is one of the most contested issues in U.S. politics: costs are high, access is limited, and current laws and mandates do not work for everyone. Reform is inevitable, and will affect all Americans. It is important for lawmakers, businesses and employers, and individual citizens to be aware of the current state of healthcare and the reforms under consideration to come up with the best solution for Americans. Below are the current challenges and areas for reform featured in the newly updated Policy Circle Healthcare Brief:
- Costs: In 2018, the U.S. spent almost 18% of its GDP on healthcare, amounting to $3.6 trillion in total healthcare spending. Costs also vary widely within the U.S. You can compare healthcare prices and use levels across the country with Health Cost Institute’s interactive Healthy Marketplace Index, and compare hospital prices for employers with the Employer Hospital Price Transparency Project from the Employers’ Forum of Indiana.
- Prescription drugs: The Wall Street Journal explains how drug prices in the U.S. work:
- Medicare for All: Proponents of centrally-planned government believe that the government should guarantee and subsidize universal coverage, consolidate providers into large organizations, and have experts manage federal spending in a way that drives efficiency throughout the healthcare system. Calls for “Medicare for All,” which would involve complete or majority control of the healthcare system by the government, have been making headlines in recent years, thanks to legislation proposed by politicians like Senator Bernie Sanders. Proponents believe the government should guarantee and subsidize universal coverage. But we still need a better understanding of what exactly a government-run health care system looks like. For countries with this system, it looks like long wait times and lack of available services. In Canada, the time between a practitioner referral to actual treatment averages just under 20 weeks; in the UK, there were 4.4 million patients waiting for routine operations as of June 2019. Access to a waiting list is not the same as access to healthcare.
- The role of technology: Innovations like telehealth, which have expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, have shown promise for improving healthcare delivery and reducing costs.
What can you do?
As potential healthcare reforms are being considered, it is essential that Americans remain aware of the options so they can contribute to dialogue and make their voices heard. Here’s how you can lead by taking action:
- Research your elected representatives’ positions on healthcare law and his or her vision for how to tackle the healthcare challenges facing Americans at large and your community specifically.
- In particular, ask your Representatives in the House (because the House is responsible for appropriations) who has oversight of the funding distributions to hospitals from the CARES Act, so there is more transparency. You can compare hospital prices from 25 states with the Employer Hospital Price Transparency Project.
- Search on your state or municipality’s website for your local Department of Health using keywords such as healthcare or department of health.
- Search for healthcare in your state on Ballotpedia.
- Find contact information for federal, state, and local government officials here.
- Read the Healthcare brief for more on the debate and additional resources.
- Host your own virtual discussion using the brief discussion guide. Get started using these virtual resources.
For some ideas on where health care policy debate stands and what the future holds, The Policy Circle recently hosted a virtual discussion with Sally Pipes, President, CEO and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute, and Gloria Sachdev, President, and CEO of the Employers’ Forum of Indiana. WATCH:
How can you lead during an uncertain time? Step up and contact your local representatives: Share how COVID-19 and the shelter-in-place orders are impacting you and your community or your business, or stories of organizations that are innovative in shaping public policy. Use this helpful template to get you started. You can also write a letter to the editor of your local or a national publication. Here’s how.
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