This week we watched the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) fall short of the support needed in the Senate. Now, efforts to repeal the ACA are at a standstill. Why? Because people of all political leanings understand that losing healthcare, either because it becomes too expensive or because there are simply no service providers, will leave millions of Americans without options for care.
I support healthcare access for all. A healthy population is more productive and more innovative. Healthy children do better in school. Healthy workers miss fewer days of work, and a healthy community can thrive socially and economically. However, the ACA is not without its flaws. Healthcare costs must be addressed. Simply paying more for healthcare, whether as an individual/family or with taxpayer dollars, is not the answer. We can be healthy and financially prudent. The direction we must head includes:
-Paying for prevention. Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding risks such as tobacco use or excessive alcohol consumption, and getting recommended health screenings should be incentivized. By offering free or reduced cost free screenings, health issues can be identified and treated early, avoiding costly long-term treatments.
-Integrating services. For too long, we have treated mental health as separate from physical health, as if our minds and bodies were in some way disconnected. Addressing comprehensive mental health includes screening and treatment for common conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. This is particularly important in light of the opioid epidemic that is affecting too many lives in our community.
-Using existing, cost-effective Community Health Centers (CHCs). About 24 million people across the U.S. receive their health care at a CHC such as La Comunidad Hispana (LCH), located in southern Chester County. LCH provides integrated physical, mental, social and dental health services to low-income working people, who often have either no insurance or public insurance plans such as Medicaid, which many providers do not accept. Most uninsured patients pay just $20 for a doctor’s visit. Because Community Health Centers are non-profit, the overhead is low and no one is ever turned away for inability to pay. The level of care CHCs provide is often excellent; LCH has the highest level of healthcare quality recognized by the National Committee on Quality Assurance.
Strengthening Community Health Centers in our region and across the nation is one way to meet the need of both those who need care and the taxpayers who worry about the ACA’s long-term financial viability.
Alisa Maria Jones, MPHPresident and CEO of La Comunidad Hispana (LCH)