Access to quality healthcare is a right that belongs to every American. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) achieved a historic milestone when it turned this principle into law, extending high quality coverage to millions of Americans who previously had no coverage at all. Since its enactment in 2010, the ACA has made significant changes to America’s health care system including comprehensive insurance reforms that prevent unfair practices and the creation of state-based health insurance exchanges and tax credits for small business. The ACA has also helped to slow down the skyrocketing cost of health care in this country. In fact, the growth of national health care expenditures is at its lowest rate in over 50 years. I will continue to support efforts that slow health care spending without compromising quality, accessible, and efficient health care.
As we strengthen and streamline our healthcare system so that it can accommodate the increasing demands of a larger and an older population, we must improve system-wide efficiency by coordinating comprehensive care. From full implementation of the ACA’s provisions, to electronic health records, to the demands of caring for an aging population, our country’s healthcare system will require new and thoughtful approaches to efficiency, cost containment, and innovation.
As we continue to seek the new treatments and technologies that lower costs and improve outcomes, we will need to make a sustained commitment to research. That’s why we must protect and prioritize funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as we make tough choices about federal spending and deficit reduction. Massachusetts receives more per capita NIH funding than any other state. Over the last year alone the 4th District received more than $25 million from the agency. This funding quite literally saves lives – its protection is a moral and economic imperative. NIH support for AIDS research, for example, has significantly decreased the amount of deaths from the disease. We can make similar gains in Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes and autism – but we must fund the research that gets us there. If we are serious about health care costs, then we have to focus on chronic conditions.
Federal funding for research allows us to continue the pursuit of breakthrough technologies in healthcare. We will need to continue and accelerate these discoveries as our healthcare system faces unprecedented demographic demands. The United States has built the world’s leading medical schools and research hospitals through a commitment to education, research, and innovation. If we maintain this focus today, we will also be able to maintain our commitment to ensuring that every American has access to quality healthcare.
Finally, our system must wipe out the unfair stigma often associated with mental health care. Just as the ACA eliminated an insurance company’s ability to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, it also ended their discrimination against individuals living with mental illness or substance use disorders. The ACA builds on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 and requires coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services as one of ten essential health benefits categories. Effective for the first time this year, most insurance companies will no longer impose different limits on the number of visits for physical care versus behavioral health. They will not be able to charge higher co-pays for mental health and substance abuse treatments than for physical care, and insurance companies will be prohibited from having tougher requirements for the approval of care for mental illness than for physical illness.
As communities across the country struggle in particular with the rising human and economic cost of prescription drug abuse, my colleagues and I on the Prescription Drug Abuse Caucus continue to pursue legislative solutions. From legislation to increase tamper-resistant technologies in dangerously addictive opiates, to bills that would increase mental health services in our communities, we remain committed to working with local stakeholders across the country to tackle this fast-growing addiction crisis.
If you need help in signing up for insurance or have questions, you may call the General Health Connector and MassHealth HelpLine at 1-855-624-4585, TTY: 1-877-623-7773. Also, you can find more information about the Massachusetts’s Connector at:
https://www.mahealthconnector.org/, 1-877 MA-ENROLL (1-877-623-6765), or TTY 1-877-623-7773.
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