In order for Pennsylvania to meet the challenge of affordable, personalized healthcare for all, we need policymakers who understand the unique dynamics in healthcare. The cost of doing nothing is too high. Having worked throughout the healthcare field I have a prescription for how to make us all healthier :
- Medicare and Medicaid pay less for care than private insurers. We should give individuals, families and small businesses the option to buy into those savings through the state’s HealthChoices plans.
- Protect reproductive rights and end the requirement that women purchase abortion coverage separately in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania must have comprehensive protections for reproductive rights and women’s health issues.
- Pennsylvania should mandate paid sick leave for all salaried employees.
- Pennsylvania should start directly negotiating drug prices. By passing on all the savings to the people of Pennsylvania, rather than corporate shareholders, we can save over $1 billion in a single year.
- Much of the profit in prescription healthcare is made by unregulated middlemen called Pharmacy Benefits Managers (PBM’s). We need laws requiring transparency and accountability for PBM’s, who are colluding with manufactures to milk the system to take your money.
- Pennsylvania must reform our insurance and prescribing laws to prohibit shortsighted insurance requirements instituted by accountants, not care providers. Insurers are getting in between patients and their physicians with overly burdensome networks and prior authorization requirements. Patients suffer and there is little evidence these measures save money.
Healthcare, especially prescription drugs, is increasingly unaffordable for far too many Pennsylvanians. We must do better.
When insurance and big pharma lobbyists come to influence Harrisburg, we need leaders who can respond to and analyze their claims, not just swallow them. I’ve done just that for years – fighting in Harrisburg and Washington against an impersonal system in order to empower patients. I have testified before the Federal Trade Commission against anti-competitive, anti-patient practices by insurers and drug companies.
Mental Health Care
Our mental health care system is in crisis. We are seeing a rapid rise in overdose deaths and a growing epidemic of suicide. In my work with Child Guidance Resource Centers, I have witnessed the power of a holistic, community-based approach to mental health. It is one of many PA nonprofits that offer exceptional care at little to no cost. Public funding, however, has remained nearly flat year after year. The time has come to reinvest in established, community-based providers.
- Increase funding to the mental health programs administered by counties, which haven’t seen an increase in over a decade despite an epidemic of drug abuse and suicide.
- Pass Phillips Law, which would equip our schools with the counselors and mental health resources our kids need. Childhood troubles aren’t uncommon or a reason to be ashamed – and the failure to identify or address such issues can have lifelong consequences, including higher risks for depression and drug addiction.
While funding for addiction treatment has drawn increasing attention, there has been very little scrutiny about the quality of care we are paying for. Treatment outcomes are by nature difficult to assess or even track. As a result there is no “gold standard” treatment regimen, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all equal.
A crucial lesson I learned in specialty pharmacy is that good patient care and efficiency aren’t always mutually exclusive – in fact they often go together, and nowhere more than here. Ineffective drug treatment isn’t only a waste of money: it’s dangerous for the person seeking recovery. The same goes for poorly operated and under-supervised recovery residences.
The best providers use treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that have a strong clinical track record. Unfortunately, addiction is the one field in medicine where the public still routinely pays for treatment models that are either unproven, outdated or both. It’s time to require proven treatment administered by licensed professionals.
- Ensure that all treatment centers and halfway-houses receiving public money are operated using safe, clinically-proven treatment models like CBT. Twelve Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous can be a vehicle to recovery for many people, but they are not a viable replacement for proven clinical care.
- We should mandate that all inpatient facilities offer the option of “medication assisted treatment” for relapsing opiate addicts. Medications like Vivitrol and Suboxone cuts these patients’ death rate by 50%. Unfortunately, this option is still not offered at many facilities, usually for ideological reasons.
- Provide grants to counties that establish programs designed to collect and analyze statistics on addiction and drug use. Understanding the problem better will enable state and local government to respond more effectively.
- Educate families on addiction. Pennsylvania should guarantee families dealing with addiction access to education on addiction, treatment, and the industry itself. Families, particularly parents, share in the pain of those with mental illness, including addiction. No surprise that patients and addicts do best when their families share in recovery. Yet seeing a loved one struggles with addiction is often as bewildering as it is painful. Empowering families to support recovery is inexpensive and essential.
- Require counties to offer “Drug Court” programs to all qualifying offenders, rather than artificially limiting enrollment. Prison is not a treatment facility, and abstinence behind bars is not recovery.