Guest Column

Health Care Needs Sustainable Path

The Montana Legislature and Congress must focus their efforts on the root drivers of cost

True health care reform will require more than partisan ideologies. Our state and federal leaders need to be reminded that polarized objectives will always fall short of collaborative solutions based on expert recommendations from those who work in the field.

Montana health care workers know that increasing the number of individuals and families covered by health insurance is fundamental to addressing today’s health care challenges. Individuals with health insurance are more likely to access the care they need to be healthy and productive members of our communities. Over time, this improved access to essential services will shift the health of our nation and slow the growth of health care costs. These aren’t assumptions; these are facts based on years of research and experience.

Continued attempts to repeal our nation’s health law or to strip individuals from their insurance coverage would be a waste of time. Rural health care is on the wire, and Montanans cannot afford more political theater. Rising out of pocket costs are forcing an increasing number of families to choose between medical care and other needs. Hospitals are working to hold the line as best as they can, and for now, we continue to be the most affordable in the nation.

But something has to give. To place our health care system on a more sustainable path, the Montana Legislature and Congress must focus their efforts on the root drivers of cost.

Reining in the price of prescription drugs, medical devices and professional liability insurance will curb spending and help hospitals keep their care local and within budget. More importantly, it will allow rural providers to maintain improvements in safety and quality. There’s also work to be done to curb the costly impact of unhealthy behaviors. It’s why we support our elected leaders in their efforts to advance public health policies that aim to decrease the use and intensity of services.

We are all frustrated about health care costs, but Band-Aids are only a temporary fix. We need access to education, mental health and prevention services; better care transitions and community support; and regulatory relief so that our health care workers can focus on their patients – rather than paperwork.

Montana hospitals and other providers stand ready to work with anyone committed to ensuring health care reform advances responsibly and to the benefit of Montanans. We know that good health care is about more than a doctor visit, but sometimes, that one visit can change an individual’s life for the better. It’s time to put forward policies that recognize health care is about people, not politics.

Dick Brown is the president and CEO of the Montana Hospital Association.