Curing our healthcare system

By: 
Guest Commentary, HIRAL TIPIRNENI

Hiral Tipirneni
Democratic candidate
8th Congressional District

Our ongoing healthcare crisis provides evidence that partisanship is winning in Washington, D.C.

Fortunately, there is a path forward if we renew our political courage and borrow ideas from both sides of the debate.

Nearly a year ago, we only had “repeal” from the right. Thankfully, Sen. John McCain, calling for true bipartisanship, stalled this legislation, which seemed more like sabotage than solution. It threatened to allow for even higher premiums and loss of coverage for pre-existing conditions, as well as for low-income seniors, children, and people with disabilities.

Now, there are renewed calls from the left to “replace” our healthcare system with a single-payer federal program, a government-run system that was hit with a $32.6 trillion price tag over 10 years, according to a study from a university-based policy center backed by the infamous Koch brothers.

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Healthcare reform should focus on stabilizing and strengthening, not repealing and replacing. We need a collaborative approach that addresses the twin pillars of expanded coverage and cost containment. Here are four places to start:
 
1) Protect the current, most beneficial and popular Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions:
 
a. No “age tax” because of pre-existing conditions;
b. Prohibit annual and lifetime caps on healthcare benefits;
c. Children can remain on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26; and
d. Maintain the requirement that all marketplace plans cover basic healthcare services.

 
2) Expand Medicare, a highly effective, efficient plan, by allowing people under age 65 to buy into it. This public option is not a handout. It helps people nearing retirement while lowering costs for those in the private insurance markets. And, it strengthens Medicare’s ability to negotiate lower drug prices for its customers as well as better rates with hospitals and medical practitioners.
 
3) Secure payment of cost-sharing reductions to help stabilize the current healthcare marketplace and encourage insurance companies’ participation.
 
4) Drive healthcare coverage competition by looking for innovative ways to encourage creative solutions, such as competition between the private sector and Medicare.
 
As an ER physician and cancer research advocate, I’ve seen firsthand the struggles of the uninsured, as well as the direct, tangible benefits the ACA has brought to real peoples’ lives. It’s too valuable to simply toss aside. That said, it’s a fact that our healthcare system remains in crisis, with both rising costs and deductibles.

I believe healthcare is a moral obligation, but make no mistake — it is never “free.” In both the public and private marketplaces, healthier individuals help pay for the less healthy ones. The bottom line is that the healthcare risk pool must be expanded with healthy individuals.

A measured, step-by-step transition to a simpler health insurance system that ensures universal coverage is what we need. The interplay of private insurers and a public system  — focused on covering all Americans, bringing down costs and improving patient care — preserves our system’s strengths and protects the free market while offering better choices for consumers.
 
Dr. Hiral Tipirneni is a candidate for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District. For more information, visit www.hiralforcongress.com and follow her on Facebook at https://facebook.com/hiralforcongress and Twitter @hiral4congress.

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