As you take office on the heels of an unprecedented Campaign that divided our nation, there’s an opportunity to bring us together around improvements to the health system that supersede the partisanship that has marked debate since passage of the Affordable Care Act. They build on two undeniable facts:
Healthcare matters to everyone: young and old, sick and well, covered and not. The public wants a system that’s transparent, affordable, effective, understandable and focused on a balance of prevention and sick care. The overwhelming majority want everyone to have access to health services, especially to physicians and providers. And the public wants solutions to systemic problems based on the good of the whole rather the interests of those who benefit from protecting the status quo. Lest it be forgotten, the majority of Americans—Democrats and Republicans– see need for improvement in our health system.
Healthcare costs are increasing and threaten everyone. With annual spending costs spiking to 6% annually as a result of increased utilization and frightening drug costs, households are feeling the pinch directly. Meaningful discussion about ways to slow the health cost spiral to inflation plus 1%–an aim suitable to sustain innovation and accommodate increased demand—is needed. At more than $10,000 per person, there’s plenty of money in the system: it’s how it’s used that needs fresh thinking and executive leadership.
Healthcare is not partisan: it is more important than platforms and promises. It requires open debate sans posturing for votes in the next election cycle or brinksmanship to get the upper hand over political adversaries. It requires honest deliberation based on an objective set of facts. It requires input from those outside DC. It requires fresh thinking that’s practical and a willingness to try things that might not work perfectly the first time.
There are no easy answers but obvious questions need to be addressed. Perhaps in the first 100 days of your administration, as an act of statesmanship, it’s time to revisit the future of the health system in the U.S. Perhaps instead of convening the same talking heads from trade groups and think tanks, it’s time to gather thoughtful people of good will whose sole pledge is to the good of the whole over obligations to anything or anyone else.
The undeniable reality is that our nation is deeply divided and trust in our political system is at low ebb. Can healthcare be a focus of lawmaking that can help restore the faith and confidence needed in our Republic? Could anything be more important? Is it worth a try?
Paul H. Keckley
P.S. Tomorrow, we elect our 45th President. Wednesday, the President will begin the arduous process of governing. Look for a special edition Keckley Report focused on the legislative agenda for healthcare going forward, as soon as the results of the election are clear.