Health Care

Americans Deserve the Best Healthcare

As Long Islanders, we are blessed with a wide variety of hospitals, doctors and other healthcare providers nearby. Unfortunately, the federal government makes getting health care far more expensive – and frustrating – than it should be. The American health care system can and should be the best in the world, with top-quality health care available to all Americans.

Because of high health care costs, families sacrifice their basic needs, businesses are deterred from hiring and expanding, and state budgets are strained.  Congress must set aside partisan politics and work together to put the needs of the American people first in order to solve this problem.  The current system continues to raise the costs without delivering better value.  We can do better.

To lower health care costs, Congress must focus on five primary policy areas: (1) giving patients more control; (2) lowering health insurance premiums; (3) ending health care monopolies; (4) decreasing drug costs; and (5) incentivizing prevention.

I. Give Patients More Control

If you were paying to renovate a room in your home, you would shop around to find the best quality workmanship for your dollar.  This is because you are spending your own money and you have to live with the results.  Since the end result means a lot to you, you would negotiate the best price possible with the best contractor.  However, if a faceless third party were paying for the renovation, you wouldn’t care as much about the cost since it wasn’t coming directly out of your pocket.  And, the third party would not care so much about the quality of the work performed because it wouldn’t have to live with it.  That’s just human nature.  And as a result, the quality would suffer and the work would be more expensive.

Health care is no different.  Patients should be able to demand the best quality care for the lowest price, and they should be able to easily shop around for it.

One way to accomplish this is to expand the use of health savings accounts (HSAs), which are tax-preferred accounts that allow patients to save money for future health expenses.  When people spend their own money on their health services, you can rest assured that they will make sure that they are getting the best bang for the buck.  A Rand study found that people using HSAs generally spend less on health care while still getting all necessary primary and preventative care.  Currently, only individuals who are enrolled in high-deductible health plans are eligible to have an HSA.  Congress should expand the availability of HSAs across the board so that they can be linked with a far wider range of health insurance policies.

People using HSAs need adequate information about the price and quality of medical services in order to make informed choices.  Consumers want to be able to compare prices and quality of medical services in order to determine what is best for their health and their pocketbook.  As it stands currently, most Americans say that it is too difficult to find out what medical services cost.  To this end, Congress should require price transparency for elective medical procedures.  This will apply downward pressure on prices, reduce price disparities between providers, and empower patients to make the choices that are right for them.

II. Lower Health Insurance Premiums

Today, things like electronic devices keep getting more efficient, better, and cheaper, thanks to competition in private enterprise. Meanwhile, every time government steps in and tries to manage something, competition is thwarted, and as a result things get worse, and more expensive.  Getting health insurance is now more complicated and expensive than ever before.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

Obamacare Did More Harm Than Good

As is too often the case, the actions of government, however well-intentioned, have made health care in this country worse. Obamacare did not create one single hospital or clinic or add a single doctor or nurse to serve our communities. Instead, it imposed another layer of bureaucrats, more regulations, more paperwork, and another layer of frustration and wasted time for ordinary people. And, it made health care more expensive for almost everyone, while providing fewer options (indeed, for many people, there is only one option) and driving up our tax burden.

Opposing Nationalized Healthcare Keeps Medical Decisions Where They Belong – With You

We must fight tooth-and-nail any efforts by politicians to nationalize the healthcare system. Single-payer healthcare will result in arbitrary treatment decisions, rationing of health care, long waiting periods for necessary treatments, and the stunting of medical research and innovation.  Further, the more intrusive government becomes in our medical care, the more health care is rationed, which means, ultimately, bureaucrats put a price tag on human life.  We see the tragic, nightmarish consequences of this in recent news stories from Britain and elsewhere.

Simply put, politicians and bureaucrats should never be handed control over our choice of doctors, hospitals, and treatments. I will fight to keep American’s health care affordable, and to keep decision making where it belongs – with individuals and families.

Free-Market Competition is the Best Solution

I believe in a robust, 50-state-wide open system of health insurance. There is no reason it should be vastly more frustrating and expensive to shop around for health insurance than it is for car insurance.

I believe that, as with so many other things, the health insurance industry is best served by the free market principle of vigorous competition. Competition among health insurance companies will separate those which are superb at finding out their customers’ needs and providing great customer service at the lowest possible cost from those which are not. The ones which come up short should go out of business, and not be artificially propped up by the government.

Congress must give states the ability to tackle the problem of insurer monopolies, which are driving up health care costs.  Currently, several states have counties where no insurance plan, or only a single plan, is available on the individual market thanks to Obamacare.  With no other competition, these insurers can charge extremely high premiums and deductibles.  Making the problem worse is the fact that, under current federal law, insurers that leave the individual market are barred from re-entering it for five years.  Congress can address this problem by giving the states the ability to decide when and how an insurer is banned from reentering the market.

Don’t Make Patients Pay For What They Don’t Need

We must eliminate the federal mandates that drive up the cost of insurance and return regulatory power over health insurance to the individual states. With competition and free market principles, health insurance companies will come up with innovative and creative solutions to address consumers’ needs at the lowest possible cost. This is the best possible outcome for the consumer, you, and your family.

Congress should codify the Trump Administration’s regulations allowing the sale of short-term limited duration plans that are available for up to 364 days and have guaranteed renewability.  This would allow more affordable insurance options to be available for individuals and families currently priced out of the individual market.

III. Break Up Healthcare Monopolies to Lower Healthcare Costs

Separate from the price of health insurance is the price of health care. In fact, the root problem of the U.S. health care system is high prices.  And the ACA, Obamacare, did not reduce the price of health care.  In fact, prices actually went up after the enactment of the ACA.  Health insurance premiums will continue to balloon unless we get actual health care prices under control.

One way to lower prices is to increase competition among medical providers and end the monopolies of large health systems that are driving prices upwards.

As baby boomers get off of private insurance and into Medicare, the profit margins for medical practices fall.  In order to stay afloat, many physicians are selling their small practices to hospitals which are able to set higher prices.  The result is that physicians are incentivized to sell their practices to hospitals and lower cost setting of care are discouraged from expanding or entering into the market.  This has led to a near monopoly of hospital-based medicine.

To bring medical costs back under control, we must provide physicians with incentives to work outside the hospital-based setting.  We must encourage lower cost settings of care, such as ambulatory surgery centers and free-standing emergency rooms, to enter the market and expand.

Federal regulators should police providers and protect against monopolies that eliminate free-market competition.

And, certain Medicare reforms can help reduce prices, as well.  Currently, the amount of Medicare payments to hospitals is based in part on the cost of wages in the hospital’s geographic area.  While this is, of course, a proper consideration, there is no ceiling in place for this adjustment.  As a result, hospitals in urban areas continue to raise wages and get higher reimbursement rates from the federal government.  Congress should update the Medicare Wage Index to impose a cap so that large urban health systems can’t keep artificially driving up prices.

IV. Decrease Drug Costs for Patients

The costs of prescription medications are far too high, and Congress can take concrete steps to help bring these prices down.

Increase transparency: Consumers should be able to pay the same amount for a drug that the insurance company pays.  Without such transparency, the pharmacies can charge a lot more.

Incentivize innovation:  The FDA should give priority, and expedite reviews, for innovative drugs that treat costly, deadly, or disabling conditions rather than those that treat nuisances.

Increase competition:  Without competition, generic drug manufacturers have nearly carte blanche to raise the price on the drugs they supply.  For example, Turing Pharmaceuticals was the only supplier of the generic drug Daraprim.  Because of the lack of competition, it raised the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill.  When there is only one generic manufacturer, U.S. purchasers should be allowed to purchase drugs off the international market, so long as the medicine is manufactured at a facility certified by the FDA or certain equivalent international agencies.  This will ensure the safety of the drug while using competition to lower its costs.

Reduce Regulatory Arbitrage:  Regulatory arbitrage is where firms take advantage of loopholes to get around certain regulations.  Aggressive enforcement action must be used to prevent brand-name drug companies from limiting their generic competition. We must stop these drug manufacturers from gaming the system (https://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/30/business/questcor-finds-profit-for-acthar-drug-at-28000-a-vial.html).

Reduce what the U.S. pays for drugs:  If there are multiple drugs in a class, a taxpayer-funded program like Medicare should not pay more than the lowest-priced drug in the class.

V. Incentivize Prevention

To lower healthcare costs over the long-term, we must focus on prevention.  For example, obesity is the cause of many chronic conditions that drive up healthcare costs.  If we truly want to lower healthcare costs, we must address the obesity epidemic.

You Have Choices. Choose Ameer Benno for Congress

Because we live in this great country, we can make changes. We can elect someone who will tackle the causes we believe in. Someone who will fight for policies that prevent government interference where it does not belong. Someone who will ensure our health care system provides outstanding treatment options and makes insurance accessible and cost- effective for everyone. I am that someone.

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