New Democrats Unveil Prescription for Health Care Reform

May 7, 2009 Issues: Health Care

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today  the New Democrat Coalition’s Health Care Task Force -- led by Representatives Jason Altmire (PA-04), Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) and Lois Capps (CA-23) -- unveiled principles for health care reform that focus on increasing access, improving health outcomes, and containing costs for Americans, including those already insured through the private system, and reducing the overall cost of health care to the economy. The New Dems are committed to harnessing innovation, reforming the existing insurance market, and improving patient care to make health care more affordable and accessible. As members of the 71 member coalition of centrist Democrats, Altmire, Schwartz, and Capps bring over 60 years of health care policy experience to the Health Care Task Force and represent all three major Committees charged with shepherding health care policy through the U.S. House of Representatives.

“President Obama has rightfully charged Congress with finding a uniquely American solution to health care reform this year. The current costs to all of us – families, government, and businesses – are simply unsustainable. It is both an economic and a moral imperative to act. The New Dems are leading the way in health care reform. We are reaching out to key stakeholders to find common ground, and we and are putting forth policy solutions that focus on innovation and technology, incentives for quality and improved health outcomes, and ensuring a private-public marketplace that offers affordable, meaningful coverage for all Americans,” said U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, Vice-Chair of the New Dems and co-chair of the New Dem Health Care Task Force.

“Skyrocketing health care costs have left millions of Americans without health insurance and have hampered American companies’ ability to compete in the global marketplace,” Altmire said. “By better utilizing cutting edge research and technology and by establishing incentives that will reward providers for the quality -- not just the quantity-- of care they provide, we can lower health care costs, expand coverage and ultimately help Americans live longer, healthier lives.”

While America leads the world in economic and technological advancements, the U.S. has failed to translate these advantages into a health care system capable of handling 21st century challenges and demands. A report recently released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that nearly one in five working adults is uninsured, and the average cost for an individual health insurance policy increased by 61 percent between 1996 and 2006.

“America is home to the best and brightest minds,” said Congressman Joseph Crowley, New Dem Whip. “We are innovators, intellects and entrepreneurs and the New Dems are working to harness our energies and ideas to give Americans what they deserve – quality, affordable, and accessible health care.”

“Costs continue to rise as do the number of uninsured as our country faces an economic crisis,” said Rep. Kind, New Dem Vice-Chair.  “It is vital that we immediately implement delivery system reforms so that we can improve the quality of health care provided in this country while also cutting costs for all Americans.  Promoting greater quality and efficiency and empowering patients and doctors with information that will promote better choices will get health care costs under control, protect taxpayers, and ensure that Americans have access to affordable health care.”

“The U.S. spends twice as much on health care, as a percentage of GDP, as other industrialized nations while leaving more than 45 million Americans without coverage.  By promoting innovation, expanding affordable coverage options, and working to measurably improve American's healthcare outcomes, we can start moving towards a health care system that is affordable, portable, comprehensive, and puts doctors and patients in control of medical decisions,” said Rep. Melissa Bean, New Dem Vice-Chair.

The New Dem Health Care Task Force is made up of members dedicated to modernizing the U.S. health care system. The Task Force’s principles, which have been endorsed by the full Coalition, will focus on the following three key areas to improve quality and affordability in the U.S. health care system:

Innovation
Harnessing technological, scientific, and medical innovation is the only way we will achieve the promise of a 21st century health care system.  Adopting policies that foster innovation and hasten the adoption of new discoveries and best practices will improve the efficiency of our system and better the health of all Americans.  We must:

  • Set the framework and offer needed incentives for a national, interoperable health IT system to encourage information sharing across multiple providers and proper training for both providers and the necessary health IT support workforce.
  • Embrace comparative effectiveness research for new and existing medical procedures, drugs, and devices.
  • Establish a reasonable and timely pathway for “follow-on” biologics that leads to cost savings while maintaining incentives for innovation.

Insurance Market Reform
Over 158 million Americans participate in private, employer-sponsored health insurance.  As we move forward with efforts to expand coverage to our nation’s uninsured, New Democrats support building upon the strengths of the private health insurance market by instituting reforms to make private coverage affordable and meaningful. We must:

  • Make health care coverage more affordable for small businesses through comprehensive health care reform that builds upon a private-public partnership, and reforms the small group and individual markets.
  • Expand access to private coverage through the revision of policies such as pre-existing conditions exclusions, waiting periods, and lifetime coverage limits.
  • Maintain a robust and competitive private health insurance market and ensure that Americans who have insurance and like it can keep it.

Improving Patient Care
Any health care reform must center on promoting quality and patient-centered care.  Realigning our health care system to better coordinate care, focus on prevention, and purchase value will empower patients, improve health outcomes, and help to contain costs.  We must:

  • Ensure a viable health workforce to meet demands of our aging population by improving access to health care education through scholarships and loan repayment programs.
  • Allow consumers to hold providers of health care accountable for both cost and quality of care by promoting value-based purchasing and evidence-based benefits.
  • Realign our health care system toward primary care, ensuring that patients have access to primary care physicians, patient-centered medical homes, and coordinated care for chronic conditions.