We need to ensure that every American has access to affordable, high-quality healthcare. Including mental health.
Quality healthcare is a basic human right, and the government’s job is to ensure that right for all Americans. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, we made great strides towards realizing the goal of universal health coverage for all Americans. We are on the right track toward universal coverage. Uninsured rates are at historic lows, and millions of people have gained coverage because of the law.
Protect and Expand Coverage
In Congress I am fighting to preserve protections for those with pre-existing conditions, prohibitions on lifetime and annual caps, and requirements that essential health benefits be covered.
When it comes to expanding coverage, we need to close the Medicaid coverage gap and expand Medicaid in all 50 states. The Republican plan takes us in the wrong direction by gutting the funding for Medicaid expansion. However, Republican Governors who were skeptical at first are now admitting that Medicaid expansion has been good for their states, and thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have expanded the program. Let’s keep the funding and work with the remaining 19 states to close the Medicaid gap.
We also need to ensure we expand coverage to support Medicaid long-term services and support (LTSS). Medicaid pays for a lot of the services that allow people with a disability to thrive in our community.
Additionally, I support the creation of a public healthcare option and allowing people to buy into Medicare at age 55. By expanding Medicaid across the country and making these additional options available, we can achieve universal coverage.
Let’s make health care affordable for everyone.
Control Premium Increases
America has the most expensive health care system in the world, and we don’t get better results because of it. Health care providers are incentivized to perform costly tests that aren’t necessary. We should find ways to change the incentives so that providers are rewarded for treating patients not for performing tests.
We also need to focus on wellness and prevention. When people are empowered to make good decisions about diet, exercise, not smoking, and getting yearly checkups, healthcare costs go down.
Finally, we need to get everyone covered. The U.S. spent $38.3 billion on uncompensated medical coverage in 2016. A large part of that is people without insurance having to go to the emergency room, which is far more expensive than preventative care. That cost is then passed on to the rest of us. Covering everyone will help drive down costs in the long run.
Nobody should think twice about getting the care they need.
Limit Out of Pocket Costs
People should be able to afford to use the coverage they have. Too many people can only afford high deductible plans that discourage them from seeing a doctor when they need to because of high deductibles. This is not only wrong, but it’s costly. Studies show that dealing with medical problems sooner rather than later saves money. It’s particularly a problem for mental health services. Too many plans have higher co-pays and deductibles for these crucial services. I support stricter limits on deductibles and other out of pocket costs so that nobody has to think twice about getting the care they need.
Focus on Mental Health From an Early Age
American is facing the highest suicide rate in 30 years, and it’s especially a problem for young people. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among people ages 18 to 24. And the pandemic made it even worse.
Mental health is also highly correlated with substance abuse. My nephew Ian died from an opioid overdose in 2016. He had a “dual diagnosis” of mental health and substance abuse issues. This is why my Family Foundation made a grant to Suburban Hospital in 2017 to expand mental health treatment.
New research shows that half of lifetime mental illness cases begin by age 14,49 but an astounding 80% of children and adolescents 6-17 years old who need mental health treatment do not receive it.
Additionally, we have to do a better job removing the stigma that keeps people from seeking treatment. Our leaders can and must draw attention to this important issue and encourage anyone who needs it to seek treatment.
We also need to ensure that we are fully enforcing the Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA), which requires insurance companies to cover mental health and substance abuse treatments the same way that they cover other health benefits.
Finally, we desperately need more brain and behavioral sciences research to develop better treatments for mental health issues. This is why I support doubling the budget of NIH.