Opinion

To Rally Voters, Candidates Must Shift Focus from Obamacare to Patients

As the 2016 election picks up, and the votes roll in from Iowa, New Hampshire, and now South Carolina, there’s no question that health care is as important of a topic as ever. The most recent Kaiser Tracking Poll finds that cost of health care is considered the third most important issue to registered voters when picking a presidential candidate, falling behind terrorism and the economy.

Note that the cost of health care, not Obamacare, is the issue that rises to the top of voters’ minds. In fact, the 2010 health care law ranks all the way down the list at number eight.

Obamacare was a great step forward for health care in this country—but patients everywhere know through firsthand experience that our health care system is still broken. With more Americans than ever before focused on receiving quality care at a reasonable cost, candidates and politicians must stop positioning Obamacare as the be-all-end-all for health care reform.

The first step to addressing the challenges of today’s health care system is to listen to those most directly impacted—the patients. That’s the impulse behind Partners for Better Care (PBC), a new advocacy campaign powered by some of the most recognizable patient and disease groups in the country, representing more than 55 million patient advocates.

With the recent release of our bipartisan Patient Charter, we plan to spend the coming months zeroing in on opportunities to fight for improved health care access and affordability for all Americans. As our charter enunciates, patients will have an active and formal voice in the transformation of the health system, including reforming the payment and delivery system; using systemic efforts to contain costs, assessing the value of care and treatment, and generating the best outcomes at reasonable costs.

Our Patient Charter was defined and refined by leading patient advocacy organizations with real input and understanding from patients and families who have been fighting back against situations—some corrected after laborious exceptions and appeals, others caused by unexpected changes in care or coverage, others by bad, out-of-date information—that can have lasting and dire consequences. The charter serves to match the power of politicians and industry insiders with the power of the patient story.

Serving as the coalition’s call to action, the charter will engage all relevant stakeholders by supporting a roadmap to regulatory fixes and shaping possible legislation and policy improvements at the state and federal levels.

We realize there is strength in numbers, and we plan to collaborate with other key players in the U.S. health system this year, including insurers, hospital systems and provider groups in order to find specific, comprehensive solutions to the issues facing patients now.

But meaningful health system solutions require diving deeper beyond any single issue. We must actively advocate for predictable, manageable out-of-pocket costs, and limited cost shifting; transparency of cost and quality information; provider network adequacy; reasonable health system costs; fair and stable formularies and equitable access to therapies; easy, quick, fair and understandable appeals processes; and dignified, culturally competent care.

These are broad, but critical principles. They require consensus and energy to advocate for, but these are the principles of the healthcare reform that patients around the country demand and deserve.

While it’s heartening to see candidates of every political stripe engaging on the problems facing our healthcare system, a national conversation for real solutions requires greater perspective. Leaving the discussion to a back-and-forth political debate won’t be enough. That’s why we’re issuing this Patient Charter—and that’s why we invite you to join us in our fight.

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