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The Journal Gazette

  • Tritch

Monday, February 12, 2018 1:00 am

Healthy cooperation can tend to care crisis

Courtney Tritch

Courtney Tritch is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Indiana's 3rd District congressional seat.

While Congress continues to govern by self-made crisis, yet again struggling with fundamentals such as funding the government and passing a budget, let's not forget that we are still without a solution to one of the biggest issues facing our country – health care.

The unwillingness of members of Congress to work across the aisle has left everyday Americans scrambling to figure out how to cover rising health care costs in 2018 and beyond. I recently held a town hall meeting on health care, and the overwhelming response was that we should fix and grow what we have, not throw it away.

It is time to stop talking about recklessly repealing the Affordable Care Act (as Rep. Jim Banks has proposed), which would leave millions uninsured and exacerbate the opioid crisis by getting rid of HIP 2.0. It is time to finally start proposing tangible, pragmatic solutions for improving the system, bringing costs down, and providing accessible, affordable health care for every American.

I propose the following three-point plan as a starting point to provide much-needed relief for the hardworking people and families in this country who are waiting on Congress to help solve our nation's health care crisis.

 

Allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices

The legislation that established Medicare Part D specifically says that the government cannot negotiate drug prices. This significantly undermines the bargaining power of the millions of Americans who use Medicare, artificially raises the cost of drug coverage, and must be changed with new legislation. And if we need one more reason to act on this, more than 87 percent of the American public in a 2015 survey favored giving the government power to negotiate prescription drug prices.

 

Stabilize health insurance premiums by reauthorizing cost-sharing reductions

President Donald Trump's executive order to halt cost-sharing reductions that help cover premiums for low-income individuals means we need to immediately pass a bill reauthorizing these reductions. Without them, we will increase the number of uninsured people, which drives up insurance premiums. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates a 14 percent premium hike in Indiana in addition to any increase already coming as a result of the recent efforts to destabilize the market.

 

Create a Medicare public option for exchanges

I recommend allowing all Americans the option to buy into Medicare via the ACA exchanges. By opening up Medicare as a public option, we instantly create choice on the health care exchange, especially in places where there is only one private insurer available. Adding this option will create competition in the marketplace and drive down costs. It will not only stabilize the market, but it will also drive down the overall costs of Medicare per patient by expanding the risk pool to younger (and potentially healthier) participants. Also, offering it as an option is a low-risk way to determine whether “Medicare for all” is indeed the right path forward. If more and more people buy in, we can scale up efforts like any good business. If not, the marketplace will determine that rather than politicians.

Endorsing the option of Medicare for those who choose it does not mean I endorse socialized medicine in America. Fully socialized medicine would mean that the government employs providers. A single-payer system, or “Medicare for all,” is one in which providers are not employed by the government, but the government is the underwriter of services. Finally, a public option, which I am proposing, would allow Americans to choose Medicare coverage or coverage from a private insurance company. The time has come for us to study and utilize all our options.

Enabling all Americans to have accessible, affordable health care keeps everyone's costs down, creates productive employees for our businesses and stabilizes a market that affects 20 percent of the American economy. We can create solutions to our health care crisis, but we are going to have to work together. The bottom line is that we need problem-solvers in Congress who make decisions based on people, not politics. And, in 2018, we are going to make changes to our congressional leadership that make that possible.