Health Care Reform
Historically, our health care system has cost too much, didn’t cover enough people, and incentivized inefficiencies. With these concerns in mind, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as the ACA. The primary goal of the ACA was to increase access to affordable health care for the medically uninsured and underinsured.
Starting in October 2013, individuals began signing up for health insurance through the state health insurance exchanges established by the ACA – websites where individual consumers and small businesses could compare and shop for health insurance plans available in their state. Five key provisions of the law came into effect at the start of 2014: the individual mandate; pre-existing condition coverage; employer mandate; subsidies; and online health insurance exchanges. Further, the law enhanced the quality of healthcare for those on Medicare and disallowed health insurance providers from denying individuals coverage based on preexisting conditions. It closed the Medicare drug coverage gap known as the “donut hole” and allowed recent college graduates to remain on their parent’s health insurance plan.
Though the ACA was by no means a cure-all to challenges faced in the health care sector, it has provided a good opportunity to begin to rein in excessive costs, improve quality of care, and expand access. Moving forward, we must continue to monitor how these policies are implemented and make adjustments as necessary. One of the most challenging aspects will continue to be keeping costs under control, as well as diligent implementation of programs designed to meet this goal. For instance, the ACA contains a number of opportunities for meaningful changes to our inefficient fee-for-service system, but these changes must be aggressively implemented.
Medicare for All
I continue to work to ensure that health care remains affordable and accessible to everyone. The Medicare For All Act represents an important step forward in improving our health care system by establishing a single-payer, health care for all program.
Under this legislation, all individuals living in the United States or U.S. territories would have access to:
- free primary care and prevention services
- dietary and nutritional therapies
- prescription drugs
- emergency care
- long-term care
- mental health services
- dental services
- vision care
I am proud to cosponsor this legislation that recognizes health care as a basic human right.
Health Information Technology
Advancing and streamlining our nation's health information technology system is one way in which to increase efficiency, as well as to improve the quality of care and reduce overall health care costs. In spite of providing the most advanced medical care in the world, America's healthcare system is overly reliant on paper-based prescription and record keeping techniques that are expensive, inefficient, and sometimes lead to fatal healthcare mistakes. Inadequate health information has resulted in medical errors, misdiagnosis, and needless test duplications that increase costs and reduce the overall quality of health care.
Health Information Technology (Health IT) has been a part of several important bills signed into law. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included nearly $26 billion for hospitals and physicians to implement and improve health IT. Additionally, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act included certain requirements around health IT in health care facilities and provided a grant program for long-term care facilities to purchase, lease, develop, and implement certified electronic health record technology. Much more remains to be done to implement best use of health IT around the country and I am committed to ensuring that Congress does its part to ensure the success of health IT.
Personal health decisions should be left between women, their doctor, and their family; not the United States Congress. In recent years, we have seen numerous attacks on women’s health through efforts to limit access to contraception and reproductive services. I will continue to support and advocate for policies that protect women’s right to choose and improve access to family planning services.
Prescription Drug Pricing
Access and affordability of prescription drugs is critical for our health care system. It is important that consumers are able to obtain affordable prescription drug coverage in a way that better regulates drug companies rather than passing the costs onto working Americans. I support funding and increasing the availability of resources for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure timely, but thorough research, and testing of products like generic prescription drugs and am committed to ensuring the FDA has the personnel, procedures and equipment necessary to protect consumers and improve the drug approval process.
I also support changes to and legislation that helps lower the cost of prescription drugs by attempting to incentivize more competition within the market. I will continue to work to enact policies that will help keep necessary medical treatments within reach for all those who need them.
Community Health Centers
I support the work of Community Health Centers (CHCs) because they play an important role in our society by providing quality and affordable health care to low-income and medically underserved individuals. There are over 9,000 community, migrant, public housing, and homeless health center delivery sites located in all 50 states of the United States, and they serve more than 22 million patients. CHCs operate in rural and urban communities that are designated as medically underserved because health care is either scarce or non-existent.
Further, health centers improve access to care for tens of thousands of Washingtonians who are uninsured, are a part of the working poor, or are newly jobless. They offer services that many other providers do not, such as transportation, translation, and culturally sensitive health care that can overcome prevalent barriers. Their costs of care rank among the lowest, and they reduce the need for more expensive hospital in-patient and specialty care, providing significant savings for taxpayers. CHCs lower overall health care costs, improve the health of their patients and create economic opportunities in the communities they serve by providing jobs and training local individuals. This local approach to health care, along with an emphasis on comprehensive preventative care, generates roughly $24 billion in annual savings to the health care system nationwide.For more information on this issue, sign up to receive Congressman Smith’s email updates.