It's time to come together to improve healthcare for Tennessee
At Saint Thomas Health and Ascension, part of our mission is 100% access to care that sustains and improves the health of the communities we serve. The truth is that we still need a major reboot on healthcare-in Tennessee and across the country. Our current healthcare policies need bipartisan support to achieve our mission both effectively and efficiently.
Both sides of the spectrum understand that the Affordable Care Act has weaknesses that restrict choice and inflate prices in the individual market. These challenges need to be addressed with a reactive plan to prevent gaps in care for those we serve. Rather than one party crafting a solution to attract a few moderates from the other party, now is the time to restart the process by gathering well-intentioned people from across the entire ideological spectrum around one table.
On a national level, the Bipartisan Policy Center has convened a representative group of health policy experts to meet with instructions to develop consensus proposals to improve our healthcare system. At the table are conservatives who believe that consumer-driven healthcare that includes less regulation, more individual responsibility and increased use of health savings accounts, and progressives who favor expanded federal programs, increased resources for those who need them and further regulation of insurers and exchanges. The group also includes thoughtful experts who fall between these ideologies - a positive and welcome development.
It would be wise to avoid characterizing this work as "repeal and replace ObamaCare." A better approach would be for the group to avoid the use of labels like "ObamaCare," "TrumpCare" and "repeal and replace." These phrases divide rather than unite. Instead, the goal should be what all of Tennessee wants -- responsible suggestions to improve our health system. This effort should work to reach agreement on practicable and achievable improvements to how we as a society fund and provide value-based healthcare at an affordable cost.
Second, the group should agree to work to craft proposals to achieve the following goals that members of both parties can support:
- Improve and strengthen the individual insurance market for a lively and competitive marketplace;
- Expand the availability of affordable insurance coverage aimed at reducing the number of uninsured people;
- Strengthen the safety net for those who need it while not creating incentives for others to rely on it unnecessarily;
- Accelerate the transformation of the health system from one that rewards volume to one that rewards value;
- Address the non-healthcare impediments to achieving improved health by breaking down silos between healthcare and non-healthcare spending and rewarding increased personal responsibility for activities that maintain and improve health.
It's noteworthy that the new administration has expressed an openness to work across the aisle on healthcare. The Bipartisan Policy Center has a vitally important role to put in motion the process to deliver concrete plans to Congress and ultimately to the president.
Healthcare reform proponents in Tennessee and nationally must learn an important lesson from our nation's past debates over crucial issues including civil rights, Medicare and tax reform: Coming together and working across the aisle is key to enacting legislation to bring about fundamental change that would ultimately benefit those we serve Tennessee.
Karen Springer is president and CEO of Saint Thomas Health.