Ensuring Affordable, High-Quality Health Care
The passage of health insurance reform earlier this year was an important step forward, but we have not fully addressed the issues of quality and cost. We should view this as the beginning of the effort to ensure that all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable care -- not the end.
It is the role of Congress to be a steward of public policy. We can't wait another 30 years to revisit the health care system in this country. Instead, I believe we should take a look every year at what is working and what isn't, and show the courage to make incremental changes that deliver benefits in the form of lower costs, wider coverage, and higher quality care.
There are many industries in this nation that are regulated in order to preserve the public good--utilities are a great example. The key is to put rules in place that provide the private sector with opportunities to make a profit while promoting the health and well-being of individuals. The government also has an important oversight role to play to ensure that people receive the coverage and care that the law requires. And it should be actively involved in supporting research and innovation that can help lower costs and improve quality.
What government should not do is make decisions about anyone's individual treatment options. Everyone should have the right to pick their doctor and work with that doctor to decide on a plan of care that is right for them. Limits on a woman's right to choose should not be part of any health care reform.
I believe there are some areas we need to focus on as we continue to fight to improve the health care system in this country:
* A public option: Health insurance reform legislation that passed this year failed to include a public option. I believe this was a mistake. We should all be able to choose between public and private options. A public plan would provide another lever for balancing public health, individual choice and private sector profit in a fair and equitable way.
* Innovation: Beyond policy reform, our government needs to encourage health care innovation. We can help lower health care costs by supporting research and development that focuses on prevention and treatment of chronic diseases like diabetes that affect millions of Americans. New information technology can help streamline administrative costs and speed the flow of information between doctors and patients. Investments in innovation not only lower health care costs, they create jobs that support our economy.
* Quantity vs. Quality: Our current health care system rewards providers for the quantity of services they perform, not for the quality of outcomes. This drives up costs and takes the focus away from important solutions to our health care crisis such as preventative medicine. We need to move towards a system that encourages and rewards quality of care.