Many political pundits have suggested that after last week’s ill-fated vote, the health care debate in the United States is over. We do not believe that this is the case. As long as health care consumers are forced to choose between paying their premiums, or paying mortgages and putting food on the table, the health care debate in the United States will not be over.
Arizona is well aware of the challenges in the marketplace – for the past two years consumers paid some of the highest premium increases in the country. While recent reports suggest that pricing in Arizona’s marketplace may be stabilizing, our citizens struggle to find affordable, meaningful health care coverage. Further, in all but one county in Arizona consumers are offered only a single health plan option. And the uncertainty of federal cost-sharing subsidies adds to the instability of the market and affordability of insurance products.
Meanwhile, Arizona also has one of the strongest, most efficient and innovative Medicaid programs in the country. The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS, is an example of how states can partner with private insurance companies and physicians to create a strong, quality-driven, efficient safety net to care for the most vulnerable patients.
Unfortunately, the policy proposals contemplated by Congress over the past several months would have done little to address the problems in the marketplace in Arizona, but would have done irreparable damage to the AHCCCS program. We saw no assurance that coverage obtained on the marketplace would be more affordable, or that consumers would have more choice. Meanwhile, the legislation Congress proposed jeopardized coverage for more than 400,000 Medicaid patients and threatened the network of providers that care for this vulnerable population. In other words, the proposals Congress deliberated would have exacerbated the problems our private insurance consumers face, while devastating a program that successfully supports so many of our most vulnerable patients.
We applaud Senator John McCain for his demonstration of leadership and courage last week. He has reminded us that as a country, we have a responsibility to work together cooperatively to tackle hard policy issues. We also thank him for his call for a return to “regular order,” to ensure that ample review and deliberation are given to complex problems and that those who would be impacted by policy proposals have an opportunity to lend their voice to the debate.
So, as Congress returns to the drawing board on the health care debate, we would encourage that they come together in McCain’s prescribed spirit of cooperation to fix what we can all agree is broken in our health care system and protect the elements of the delivery system that work the best. We ask our elected officials to address the challenges in the marketplace and identify solutions that strengthen and promote efficiency and innovation in state Medicaid programs, without pulling the rug out from under the millions of vulnerable patients who depend on Medicaid for their care.
We believe that this is absolutely an attainable goal. With cooperation and continued commitment to comprehensive, meaningful solutions, we can still achieve the health care system our patients need and deserve.
As an industry, we remain ready and willing to help.
— Jennifer Carusetta is executive director of Health System Alliance of Arizona.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.