Shoring up our Healthcare System and Addressing the Opioid Epidemic
Healthcare is an issue of life and death. It comes as no surprise that this issue is hotly debated in various circles, regardless of political ideology. One part of this issue that needs to be addressed at the onset is that the words “insurance” and “care” are not synonymous. The first is a market driven initiative based upon risk from which profit is derived. Care is much more complex and involves provision of what is necessary to maintain wellness and health. Much of what is legislated regarding health insurance and care is done at the federal level. There is an equally important role state governments play concerning health costs and providing access to affordable coverage.
These are some ways at the state level we can begin to ensure proper coverage and access to all the residents of the 112th district and the State of South Carolina:
- Incentivize health and wellness. Currently hospitals receive funding in a manner similar to that of the hotel and resort industry. The more people fill up their beds and rooms, the more funding they receive. This methodology of doing business is fundamentally flawed. We keep costs down, reduce the strain on employers, and keep people living better for longer when we can incentivize and promote wellness. If hospitals and healthcare institutions reduce the amount of recidivism into the system, It puts and keeps money in the pocket of the average taxpayer. This only makes sense no matter which side of the aisle one sits.
- Addressing the opioid epidemic. Whether one wishes to admit it or not, this nation has an opioid problem. This state is not immune from the epidemic. We need to make Naloxone (brand name Narcan) available to every single first responder on the street. We need to revise the laws to make LPNs and RNs able to administer this drug when they suspect an opioid overdose without having a written physicians order in place prior. Community health and addiction services centers should have this drug available to administer on the premises at all times. Naloxone by itself is not an answer. It simply saves the life of an individual who overdoses. It is not a miracle tincture. Addiction services available to people who have experienced an overdose, who are at risk for overdose, and those just wishing to straighten out their lives and remedy their addiction should be afforded this care at a low or no cost. The cost of incarcerating these people is significantly higher than affording them treatment. It is also the moral obligation of a citizenry to help our fellow (wo)man.
- Expansion of Medicaid. This is a very hotly contested topic, and has its supporters and decorators on both sides of the argument. At current, if an individual earns just over $15,000 a year (133% of the FPL), that person earns too much to qualify for Medicaid. That’s a travesty. If this person has a $1,000 per month rent, they have $3,000 ($250 monthly) annually left to keep the lights on, pay water and sewer tax, pay for food, gas to get to work, car insurance, car payment, etc... At the end, they are left with less than nothing to pay for health coverage. This just isn’t right. I propose taking a systemic, utilitarian, tiered approach to getting these individuals covered in the Medicaid “gap”. I propose raising the Medicaid eligibility to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. This allows a family the ability to receive life saving health coverage and allows the same family to spend the money they receive through employment on the actual cost of living in the area. Rents are not decreasing, they are only increasing, the price of food is always on the rise, fuel, heating and cooling costs are always on the rise. These people need stability in their health and healthcare in order to succeed.
- Provide affordable access to coverage. This is the starting off from point. Access should never be equated with coverage, because for so many, access by itself is cost prohibitive. Increasing availability increases competition in the marketplace. This drives down cost. This is another win-win for both sides of the equation because the insurance companies have increased competition which in turn benefits the consumer by driving down rates. In a perfect world, a single-payer system would be the end goal, but getting individual affordable care to the patient is a quality first step.
A wise man once said to me “it doesn’t matter who is right, what matters is what is right”. This is the approach I take to healthcare. This can and needs to be done on a bipartisan basis. Again, this is a complex issue with many moving parts, and entities entangled within. What we have to do is start seeing the forest for the trees and stop equating coverage with care. Each is mutually exclusive. Many plans currently offered do not have much care built in. Care is not dependent on having coverage. No one side of the debate has the panacea for healthcare. We need to work together on a bipartisan solution that benefits all South Carolinians.