Washington must reset healthcare reform

By Nancy G. Brinker
August 1, 2017
The Hill

Americans have access to the best healthcare in the world, yet the way it is sold, administered, and even legislated is more befitting of a third-world country than our exceptional nation.

We have the tools and resources to reform this broken system and set it on a path for future sustainability. We just need the moral courage to bring our laws in line with the growing needs of our people.

While the recent healthcare debate in Congress failed to reform broken remnants of the Affordable Care Act, including exchanges that lack choice, competition and cost controls, the process had the redeeming quality of shedding light on prospective solutions that require immediate attention. Allowing the status quo to remain, or for these exchanges to collapse under their own weight, wouldn’t be a “win” for President Trump or Republicans.

A lack of action would represent nothing short of an abdication of our government’s responsibility to promote the general welfare. It would send an unassailable signal to the American people that political point scoring trumps personal health and sow fear among our population. At no time has adult leadership been more important.

The first step in creating a more patient-centered health system is to allow for a phased-in approach to any overhaul so those most at-risk — our seniors, the working poor and disabled, and individuals with pre-existing conditions — are provided with assurances that they will not have the rug pulled out from under them.

President Trump referred to this kind of approach as having more “heart,” and he’s right. By assuaging concerns, Congress will be granted the liberty to reform health insurance regulations in an open and transparent manner to make coverage more competitive and value-focused.

Insurers must be allowed flexibility to offer products of better value to healthcare consumers across America, and the federal government has a responsibility to give consumers the incentives to search for better value for their hard-earned dollars. This begins with Congress and the Trump administration hearing directly from the people who touch people.

Governors, mayors, state administrators, representatives of large private community foundations and medical experts from across America should be invited to testify and offer details on solutions that have been proven to get results.

Congress, in conjunction with the states, should also pursue further structural changes to Medicaid to rein-in instances of fraud and abuse. This can begin by collaborating with state experts to restructure the traditional federal funding formula to a per capita amount based on each eligibility group.

This would begin transitioning Medicaid into more manageable programs while creating more predictable budgets with added savings for taxpayers.

Make no mistake, the debate over reforming America’s healthcare system is far from over. The ongoing implementation and technical problems plaguing exchanges across America will soon necessitate another debate over reform.

That will offer opportunities for Republicans and Democrats to follow regular order and advance better alternatives to what we have seen thus far. This approach may take more time, but it will also create a new paradigm for community-centered health in America. It is the only way we can create a system where the needs of patients come first, and long-term sustainability isn’t upset by political vendettas.

Nancy G. Brinker 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 the founder of Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest breast cancer charity, and is now continuing her work as a cancer advocate.