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Health Care on the Brink


Our entire health care system – from what we prioritize to how much it costs for treatment and how we pay for it – needs resuscitation.

That’s because health care in the U.S. is really sick care.  We focus on treating people after they become ill rather than working toward keeping people as healthy as possible.  We must turn this around.

Equally important, we must consider racial, gender and economic equity when writing health care policy.

Diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma, as well as maternal mortality, impact people of color and the poor at higher rates – and take a bigger toll – than they do the white middle class.

Women must retain control over their own bodies and health care.  This goes beyond reproductive rights to include the explicit and implicit bias in medical research and treatment.

And far too many people cannot afford good health care.

By emphasizing preventive medicine, access to affordable nutritious food and dental and vision care for all, we will have a stronger, healthier population.

At the same time as we are looking at our priorities, we must look at the economics of health care.

Even for people with health insurance and in relatively good health, medical expenses can be a drain, and the cost for a procedure can vary radically.  Just ask anyone who’s been prescribed a routine test.  Taking that test at the hospital versus a free-standing laboratory can add hundreds of dollars to a co-pay.  And if someone does end up in the hospital, they can look forward to reams of confusing, conflicting (and scary) statements and bills.

Ironically, those without insurance are often charged much higher fee than those lucky enough to be covered by an insurance plan. Imagine walking into a store, picking out a tube of toothpaste going to the cash register and being charged $47 while the person in front of you was charged $4.57. That’s how our health care pricing works.

While the discussion at the national level has focused on the big picture, here in Virginia we have the ability to make changes that will have immediate benefits.  A system where the cost of medical procedures, including dental and vision, is open and transparent will promote equity and lower costs overall.

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