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Candidates Lack Prescription to Protect, Strengthen Healthcare

Candidates Lack Prescription to Protect, Strengthen Healthcare
Democratic presidential candidates at the Fox Theatre July 31, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Tuesday, 13 August 2019 11:44 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Voters have now heard from 20 Democratic candidates for more than ten hours over four presidential debates. In an apparent effort to stand out among a growing field that is drifting further and further leftward, one-by-one these candidates have embraced healthcare policies that are increasingly partisan and, thusly, far less likely to become law. As far-left candidates sacrifice substantive solutions for socialism, the opportunity now exists for more mainstream Democrats — and yes, even President Donald Trump — to show voters they are more in touch with the needs and wants of patients when it comes to the delivery and payment of healthcare.

The cost of healthcare affects every aspect of the U.S. healthcare system. It dominates political debates, impacts decisions about insurance coverage, and routinely ranks among the top of things we worry about. It also plays a significant role in the patient experience from decisions on whether or not to get care to the impact of medical bills after receiving care.

The United States also has one of the highest costs of healthcare in the world. In 2017, the U.S. spent $3.5 trillion on healthcare, which averages to about $11,000 per person. Relative to the size of the economy, healthcare costs have increased dramatically over the past few decades, from five percent of GDP in 1960 to 18 percent in 2017. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) now projects that such costs will climb to $6 trillion, or about $17,000 per person, and will represent about 19 percent of GDP by 2027. This pace of growth is simply unsustainable and warrants a serious plan from any serious candidate for president.

Sadly, what we have heard from many presidential candidates to date on healthcare have been policy prescriptions that are well outside of the mainstream of where most Americans find themselves. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have bristled at healthcare policy experts and even fellow Democrats who have called out their attempts to finance healthcare reform on the backs of middle-class taxpayers. Kamala Harris has a different healthcare position for each day of the week — typically it reflects whatever audience she’s pandering to at the moment. Top Democratic political operatives have been right to express alarm over proposals to do away with private healthcare and gut the patient-doctor relationship. They know that PolitiFact’s 2013 Lie of the Year, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” continues to ring in the minds of every American healthcare consumer.

More feasible healthcare proposals have emanated rather unsurprisingly from candidates that have actually spent time in the real world as administrators and chief executives. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, and former Congressman John Delaney, a past co-founder of Health Care Financial Partners, each advocate in support of healthcare reform plans that preserve the patient-doctor relationship. Even President Trump has touted the importance of investing in community health centers across the United States. To date, his administration has awarded nearly $150 million in grants to centers that provide affordable, accessible, cost-effective, and quality primary healthcare to young patients, rural residents, and lower-income Americans nationwide. Even with these centers the nagging worry about where to get a higher level of specialty care looms over the patient causing fear and failure to treat and detect early disease.

This, of course, is a start. Americans are looking for more specifics. They want answers on how to embrace early detection, prevention, and immediate care of aggressive disease. They desire more concrete plans to ensure access to and affordability of prescription drugs. We need leadership on managing chronic disease, neglected healthcare services, and the capacity of the healthcare delivery system to better serve the population in terms of cultural competence, disparities, quality, the workforce, financing, information technology, and emergency preparedness.

The solutions to these issues are right in front of us. Candidates for president and even members of both parties in Congress need the courage to speak the truth. That becomes difficult when you make a habit out of trashing the private sector, insurers, and medical innovators. Voters are looking for straight talk and answers because their financial livelihoods and health depend upon it. Candidates for public office who make realistic healthcare solutions a priority will surely be rewarded for it.

Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen, the world's largest breast cancer charity, has served as U.S. ambassador to Hungary, U.S. chief of protocol, and as a Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control to the U.N.'s World Health Organization. She is continuing her work in efforts to end death from cancer. The opinions expressed here belong solely to the author. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.

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Voters have now heard from 20 Democratic candidates for more than ten hours over four presidential debates.
democrats, healthcare, presidential candidates
Tuesday, 13 August 2019 11:44 AM
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