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Statement by Jesse Ellis O’Brien, US PIRG Health Care Advocate, on the apparent failure of the US Senate plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act
American consumers can breathe a sigh of relief today. The legislation that was narrowly defeated in the US Senate last night threatened to spark chaos in health insurance markets, raise costs, degrade quality of care, weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and cause millions of Americans to lose health coverage. The Senate’s 49-51 vote signals the apparent failure of Congress’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare), at least for now.
Although consumers should be relieved by the failure of the dangerous legislation proposed so far, the fact is that our health care system is still failing consumers. Now that Congress has reached a deadlock in the current debate, policymakers should take the opportunity to begin to address the real problems with the American health care system.
It’s time to go back to the drawing board and put together a plan for the kind of health reform that American consumers need and want. Real reform would grapple with the fact that the health care status quo is failing to provide an acceptable value proposition for consumers.
Health care costs too much in this country, not because too many people have access to it, but because the care is too expensive. Unjustifiably high costs haunt the U.S. health care system, from $1,000 hospital toothbrushes to giant price hikes for decades-old medicines like insulin. And often the cheapest and most effective methods of treatment are not used because the system isn’t set up to deliver them.
Fortunately, some of the best ways to improve the quality of our health care would also help contain costs. For example, expanding research into what techniques and treatments actually work best to bring about healthy outcomes, giving providers rational incentives to provide the kinds of care proven to work best, making prescription drug pricing fairer for consumers, and making sure consumers have access to pricing for services or treatments before the treatments are performed.
If policymakers want to deliver real reform, there are plenty of pragmatic, common-sense measures that would make a real difference.
We urge Congress to begin work on a real plan to make health care work better for American consumers.
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