3 Beneficial Health Care Laws The 118th Congress Could (Actually) Pass

3 Beneficial Health Care Laws The 118th Congress Could (Actually) Pass

Heading into the 2022 midterm elections, health care was once again a top voting issue, ranking third behind inflation and abortion. But will his prominence among voters translate into policy shifts in a divided Congress? It depends.

For voters who care about highly partisan bills, like Medicare for All, popular among progressives, or raising the Medicare eligibility age, as some Republicans want, there’s no way .

Yet despite narrow majorities in the House and Senate, Congress can still pass some very beneficial legislation over the next two years. To understand what policies are at stake, one need only look at where the two parties’ health care agendas overlap.

With that in mind, here are three health care improvements that the 118th Congress could enact:

1. Lower drug prices

The Trump administration has pushed congressional Republicans to cap drug prices, narrowing the gap between what Americans and Europeans pay for the same drugs. The Biden administration, meanwhile, rallied Democrats behind the

Inflation Reduction Actpart of which allows the federal government to negotiate the cost of the most expensive drugs.

To capture the momentum and public support for lower Rx prices, a variety of bipartisan bills have already been introduced.

An example is the Prescription Drug Price Dashboard Act, sponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA). The bill “would improve transparency and help reduce costs by requiring that constantly updated information be posted on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services drug spending dashboards.”

If Congress could pass a bill like this for Medicare patients, it could certainly go further and require price transparency for all drugs sold in the United States.

Just as hospitals are now required by law to list the retail price of inpatient services, Congress could require all pharmacies to list the price of their drugs. This would allow patients and their doctors to compare Rx prices for the best deals before filling prescriptions.

2. Develop health technologies

As the nation went into lockdown during the initial peak of Covid-19, Congress eased several telemedicine restrictions with overwhelming bipartisan support.

For example, both sides rushed to remove interstate licensing laws that once prevented a doctor from, say, Chicago from doing a telehealth visit with a patient in northwest Indiana, a few miles from there (even though those same patients could legally get into a car and drive across the border for in-person care).

The transition was surprisingly smooth. Patients reported almost no privacy or quality issues. In fact, most were grateful for the convenience and opportunity of telehealth and, according to numerous studies, continue to want more of it.

And yet, many states are rolling back policies that have made it easier to access virtual care throughout the pandemic, creating a potentially dangerous setback.

Congress could step in by permanently easing outdated restrictions on telemedicine.

Such policies would make a huge difference in tackling the country’s mental health crisis. Even now, most qualified therapists cannot offer virtual therapy to existing patients who are relocating or even temporarily traveling out of state. Given the shortage of mental health professionals and the growing demand for their services, bipartisan support for telehealth would benefit the psychological well-being and physical health of our country.

3. Boost primary care

The United States faces a projected shortage of 17,800 to 48,000 interns and family physicians by 2034.

According to a recent Stanford-Harvard research collaboration, this shortage will have a huge impact on the health and lives of patients. The study found that adding 10 primary care physicians to a community increases patient longevity 2.5 times more than adding an equal number of specialists.

If Americans want to live longer (as well as lower healthcare costs and better access to care), adding primary care physicians is the answer.

These doctors specialize in finding and preventing diseases (like cancer and kidney failure) before they become a major problem. They also work closely with patients so that existing chronic conditions (like diabetes or hypertension) don’t turn into a costly or even life-threatening medical crisis (like a heart attack or stroke).

Last year, more than 1,000 doctors graduated from accredited medical schools but did not have a residency match. This is because there were not enough training positions available in the United States under the government funded program.

Congress can solve this problem with a small investment, which will reap huge rewards. The cost of training 1,000 additional primary care physicians per year would represent about 0.1% of Medicare’s current budget ($700 billion).

Plus, those dollars would be recouped many times over in the future, as patients need fewer emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and interventional procedures.

As we now know, Covid-19 has disproportionately killed Americans with two or more chronic illnesses. These data have cast a bright and unflattering light on our nation’s inability to effectively prevent or manage patients with diabetes, hypertension, or obesity.

Hiring and training more primary care physicians would begin to fill this gap. Bills like the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act and the bipartisan Physicians for Underserved Areas Act indicate that there is interest in solutions on both sides of the aisle.

Democrats and Republicans may approach health policy with different philosophical grounds. Progressives are more concerned with expanding access to care, especially for vulnerable populations, while conservatives want to limit unnecessary spending.

But whatever their health ideologies, and despite the political divide, congressional leaders can enact bipartisan policies that would help millions of patients. I urge elected officials to seize these opportunities.

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