By Alfredo Sarduy and Caroline Rayburn
For years, American patients have expressed deep concern for the broken U.S. health care system. While it is true that America’s health care system is in trouble, AMAC is leading the way to develop innovative, commonsense solutions to strengthen access to and delivery of health care for the American people. On June 9th and 10th, the AMAC Foundation conducted its first National Health Care Symposium at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C. The focus of the event was health care, its problems, and what can be done to fix them.
The highly informative and educational event featured a number of top-notch speakers, including, Robert Moffit, Director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies; Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President of the American Action Forum; Michael Cannon, Director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute; and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute – just to name a few. Speakers and panelists addressed a number of important issues related to health care, offered an alternative perspective to understanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and discussed ways to improve programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). As a whole, the symposium highlighted a more conservative approach to health care reform that emphasizes free-market involvement and abstains from intrusive and ineffective government interference in the management and delivery of health care.
Over the course of the two-day event, symposium speakers identified a number of the problems that have been created by the Affordable Care Act – keeping in mind that several issues facing the U.S. health care system today predate the passage of the ACA, while others were exacerbated by it. Douglas Holtz-Eakin described how the ACA fails to provide patients with the quality care they need due to narrowing health care options and stunting innovation – a point echoed by Dr. Gottlieb and Dr. Moffit. Additionally, the president’s health care law also places a significant strain on the economy as a result of excessive federal spending and obtrusive mandates.
Instead of expanding government bureaucracy, Eakin suggested that policymakers follow a working, market-based approach. By putting money back into the hands of patients, individuals will have the opportunity to choose the coverage that is right for them according to their own specific health needs. To do this, Eakin indicated that Congress needs to support programs like Medicare Advantage, which broadens consumer choice and provides the right economic incentives for consumers to invest in health care.
While several speakers centered their discussions on the complexities of the ACA and the practical ways to improve the health care system using the free market, other presenters, such as Ratanjit Sondhe, CEO of DiscoverHelp.com, and Kathryn Serkes, CEO of Doctor Patient Medical Association, offered symposium attendees advice for improving their individual health and wellness by becoming more active recipients of health care. Serkes’ presentation did an excellent job of bringing the patient to the forefront of the debate. The current health care system is not patient focused. As the practice of medicine becomes overly burdened by government bureaucracy and regulations, the doctor-patient relationship that was once cherished by society is quickly beginning to disappear. Now, Americans are forced to use a system of third party payments that hamstrings doctors and makes it difficult for patients to get “skin” in the game.
Furthermore, patients are being hurt by higher premiums, soaring deductibles, and narrowing networks that have cost many patients their insurance and doctor – despite repeated promises made by the president to the contrary. Doctors have their share of complaints as well. The ACA imposes a series of bureaucratic, insurance, and hospital regulations that increasingly limits their abilities and freedoms to practice and treat sick patients. With these points in mind, Serkes urged attendees to become more knowledgeable consumers of health care and to work together with doctors to improve their understanding of its delivery and costs.
Once the speakers had left the podium, the AMAC Foundation concluded each day of the symposium by hosting a series of panels to discuss relevant health care issues and to hear from multiple industry stakeholders. These panels focused more on problem-solving than simply finding the faults within the current programs. Day one witnessed panels on Medicare costs and VA reform, and day two focused on preventive health care and patient-doctor involvement. Members of the audience were able to pose questions to panelists and participate in brainstorming possible solutions to the problems at hand.
Perhaps one of the most important symposium panels centered on reforming the VA. In light of the recent news that many American veterans have died while waiting for care at a VA hospital, the AMAC Foundation considered it to be necessary to have a meaningful conversation about what to do to ensure incidents like this never happen again. Panelists discussed the possibility of enabling veterans to be treated at private hospitals if VA wait-times proved unacceptable or if VA health care facility was not located nearby. Additionally, all panelists agreed that higher levels of accountability must be instituted within the VA. The VA epitomizes a government bureaucracy that has grown far too large, and sadly, the brave men and women who have served our country have reaping the consequences.
Even though America faces a tough road ahead as it strives to strengthen the health care system and expand access to care to millions of people, the AMAC Foundation is eager to partner with America’s leaders to accomplish these noble goals. Unlike other groups that continuously clamor for change but offer nothing in terms of solutions, AMAC is now armed with real, innovative, workable ideas that promise to make health care better and more affordable. The AMAC Foundation is proud to have partnered with so many influential health care leaders to address the problems that have no place in American health care. AMAC looks forward to advancing these solutions in the months and years to come.