Healthcare Needs Bipartisan Support to Benefit Patients, Stabenow Says

March 7, 2020
Maggie L. Shaw
Maggie L. Shaw

Healthcare is not political, it’s personal, Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, told an audience at the ACCC 46th Annual Meeting and Cancer Center Business Summit, imploring them to come together in a nonpartisan way to improve care access and quality and to reduce costs.

Before her keynote address “A Frank Conversation About the State of Healthcare in the United States” during the ACCC 46th Annual Meeting and Cancer Center Business Summit, held March 5 and 6 in Washington, DC, Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, was introduced by Dennis A. Cardoza, co-chair of the Federal Public Affairs Practice and chair of the California Public Affairs Practice of Foley & Lardner LLP. He polled the audience with this question: in 2019, healthcare emerged as the top policy issue for Americans. What do you see as the number 1 driving force behind this crisis?

  1. Access to services.
  2. Concerns over the cost of treatment on the individual level, high co-pays, deductibles, etc.
  3. Concerns over the cost to society as a whole.
  4. The “broken” healthcare system.
  5. Concerns over the quality of care being delivered.

Stabenow, a member of the Senate Finance Committee and ranking member of its health subcommittee, followed with her perspective on the state of healthcare costs in the United States today, touching upon how each of the above choices affects healthcare affordability. She reinforced the importance of investing in our country, in public infrastructure, and in public health infrastructure, especially where oncology is concerned, because “it’s about hope. It’s about finding a path. It’s about providing life-saving medications.”

She expressed concerns over the Trump administration’s promotion of short-term insurance plans, from a coverage and treatment standpoint, that don’t have to cover people with pre-existing conditions or that don’t provide the basic coverage called for by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). They are “cheap,” she said, and patients don’t know if they are covered until they get sick, whereas under the ACA, preventive care is covered without a copay.

We are constantly trying to figure out how to not go backwards, Stabenow noted, especially in the face of President Trump’s proposed $1.6-trillion cut in future healthcare spending, and we’re going to work very hard to push back. One example is by supporting robust efforts for community health centers and certified community behavioral health centers, because “we predominantly treat these areas not as real healthcare, through healthcare reimbursement, but through grants.” Communities deserve structurally sound, high-quality care.

Another concern she brought up was the cost of vaccines and treatments, shining the spotlight on a recent $3-billion investment in research and vaccines that did not include language guaranteeing that if this research produced effective vaccines, they would be guaranteed affordable when brought to market.

“The federal government should use its power to negotiate a price,” she pointed out. “Keeping the quality high is not worth it if at the end, Americans can’t afford the medicine.”

The price of insulin alone has risen about 15 times in the past number of years, she highlighted, stressing again that Americans must have access to affordable medications.

“For every one of us, healthcare is not political, it’s personal, and we should all be coming together on every issue, on a nonpartisan basis, to do what we can to make things better, to improve access to care, to improve the quality of care, and to reduce costs,” she concluded. “We can have a difference of opinion in how we approach things. That’s how you get to the good decisions. But we need to not start from a political or ideological position, but from the position of how to make things work.”