(The Hill, August 1, 2012)
Need for affordable care cuts across party lines
By Tom Daschle and Bill Frist
On June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court issued a decision that affects the health and well-being of every American, as well as the fiscal future of our nation. By affirming the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the private and public sectors can now turn to implementation, along with natural and needed shaping and modification of the underlying policy along the way.
The court’s decision can and should be a turning point for our national discussion and action on healthcare. Though the upcoming elections might amplify our differences in the short term, it is in the long-term interest of every American to begin now to work together and forge consensus-based solutions for our nation’s most critical healthcare challenges.
The United States currently has an expensive, uncoordinated and inefficient healthcare system. By 2020, healthcare spending will make up one-fifth of our national economy. Excessive and wasteful healthcare spending fuels our nation’s exploding federal debt and imposes unsustainable burdens on our federal and state governments, employers, individuals and their families. This is a grave threat to our nation’s future health, economic viability and ability to compete in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.
As the co-leaders of the Bipartisan Policy Center Health Project, our mission is to bring together federal, state, business and workforce leaders to develop health system solutions that address ongoing budgetary and healthcare reform challenges. We are embarking on a new initiative to confront and curb the country’s out-of-control healthcare cost growth: Our goal is to promote a rational, competitive, accessible and affordable healthcare system. We will be collaborating on this initiative with Alice Rivlin and former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), the distinguished co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center Debt Reduction Task Force. The task force is dedicated to reducing the federal deficit and helping America achieve a sustainable fiscal path, which simply cannot be accomplished without significant healthcare reform.
Healthcare cost containment is a profoundly complex and divisive issue, but we are steadfast in our belief that this issue can be addressed in a meaningful way. We as a nation cannot wait any longer. Our broken healthcare system can be fixed; there are solutions to each of the challenges. But we will never devise and apply them until we commit to do so together, reaching across the political aisle to work with one another.
All Americans generally agree on the end goals for health reform — appropriate and effective patient care, lower costs and easier access for all. We might not agree on the individual mandate, but we do agree on the power of embracing personal responsibility for our health and health decisions. We do not always agree on the most effective way to execute state insurance exchanges, but we can agree that these exchanges provide opportunities for states to use the power of market competition to control costs and engage their constituents on the individual level.
We all know that greater transparency in pricing and outcomes will help eliminate duplication, waste and inefficiency. We want to see our system provide frictionless and coordinated care that brings satisfaction to caregivers and peace of mind to patients. We want our health records and data systems to be brought into the 21st century through health information technology, providing vital health information when and where it is needed instantly and securely. The only question is how we get there.
Healthcare is in a period of explosive growth and transformation. Every day, the sector performs technological miracles, creates jobs and saves lives. We must harness this power, but at the same time, strive to do more. The American healthcare system has the power to be more efficient and more accurate, without sacrificing our nation’s capacity for private-sector innovation, productive public-private collaboration and incredible technological advancement.
Allowing healthcare costs to soar at unsustainable levels and allowing America to fall behind on key indicators of care quality and access is not a political victory for either side of the aisle. Assigning blame along partisan lines gets us nowhere.
A healthy population, a happy and productive workforce, and affordable healthcare are vital to the future of our nation. Unless we are willing to work together to transform our healthcare system for the better, these essential goals will remain out of our reach.
Former Senate Majority Leaders Daschle (D-S.D.), now a senior policy adviser at DLA Piper, and Frist (R-Tenn.) lead the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Health Project.
This article was originally featured in The Hill http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/healthcare/241701-need-for-affordable-care-cuts-across-party-lines