We can’t retreat from the progress achieved in pursuit of universal access to affordable care
Many Americans are wondering about the future of healthcare in our country following the recent elections at the federal, state and local levels. It’s too soon to know how events will unfold, but one thing is clear.
We need to continue the important work toward guaranteeing 100% access and affordability in healthcare, and we must do more to improve health for all Americans. While there are different ideas about how to accomplish these goals, there also are broad areas of agreement and opportunity.
Both major political parties agree that moving from a healthcare system that prizes volume to one that rewards value will make the system more efficient, effective and truly person-centered. In order to achieve this, we must focus on providing accessible and affordable care, accomplishing mental and behavioral health reform, and combating astronomical prescription drug price increases.
At Ascension, the largest not-forprofit health system in the nation, we are committed to providing compassionate, personalized care to our communities and our patients, giving special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable.
While it is clear that major changes are going to be made to the Affordable Care Act, Congress will have an opportunity to reset the debate to one that is more bipartisan in nature. But we must not take our eye off the ultimate goal: to ensure that every American has access to quality, affordable healthcare. As President-elect Donald Trump has noted, “We must also make sure that no one slips through the cracks simply because they cannot afford insurance.”
Close to 21 million Americans have received insurance either through expanded Medicaid coverage or through the exchanges built for the individual and small-group markets. So it is also crucially important that changes to the ACA include a reasonable transition so that these individuals do not face any interruption in their coverage.
Another important priority is continuing to advance the work to improve our country’s mental and behavioral health programs. Those with mental and behavioral health issues are struggling the most in our communities, and we need to provide real assistance to these most vulnerable individuals.
More than 10 million Americans suffer from severe schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression, and yet millions go without treatment and families struggle to find care for loved ones. Those with a serious mental illness also are vulnerable to chronic medical conditions, which can reduce their life expectancy. Ascension supports the mental health provisions in the sweeping 21st Century Cures Act to strengthen federal coordination of mental health resources, advance integrated service delivery, and increase access to mental health services. This is another important step forward in improving mental health treatment nationwide, and we must not rest here. More must be done to help this vulnerable group of citizens, especially those veterans who have served our country bravely.
Another significant barrier to healthcare reform for providers is the continuing rise in drug prices, affecting patient care and undermining our ability to provide prescription medications at an affordable price. In this environment of skyrocketing drug costs, we call for market-based solutions such as those proposed by the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, that focus on price transparency, increasing competition, and promoting innovation and value.
We agree with the president-elect’s healthcare reform policy paper, which noted, “It is the moral responsibility of a nation’s government to do what is best for the people and what is in the interest of securing the future of the nation.” That policy is consistent with our system’s mission to sustain and improve the health of all individuals and communities.
Because healthcare continues to be a top priority for all citizens and our government leaders at all levels, we urge the new administration and Congress to work toward the availability of continuous coverage for all Americans, mental health parity, and affordable prescription drug prices for all, especially persons in poverty and those most vulnerable.
Anthony Tersigni is president and CEO of St. Louisbased Ascension, the nation’s largest not-forprofit health system.