Dr. Hiral Tipirneni

Dr. Hiral Tipirneni. (Photo courtesy Dr. Hiral Tipirneni)

If we truly put people before politics, health care reform would focus on stabilizing and strengthening, not repealing and replacing. Unfortunately for us, Washington can’t seem to find a way to solve these problems.

Nearly a year ago, we only had “repeal.” Thankfully, Sen. John McCain, calling for true bipartisanship, stalled this legislation, which seemed more like sabotage than solution in addressing our country’s ongoing health care crisis. It threatened to allow for even higher premiums and loss of coverage for pre-existing conditions, as well as for low-income seniors, children and people with disabilities.

Recently, there were renewed calls to “replace” our health care system with single-per federal program, a government-run system that was just hit with a $32.6 trillion price tag over 10 years, according to a study from a university-based policy center backed by the infamous Koch brothers.

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again” with partisanship winning the day.

I’m not a politician. As an ER physician and cancer research advocate, I have seen firsthand the struggles of the uninsured as well as the direct, tangible benefits the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has brought to real people’s lives. It’s too valuable to simply toss aside. That said, it’s a fact that our health care system remains broken, with both rising costs and deductibles.

To stabilize and strengthen our health care system, we need a collaborative approach that addresses the twin pillars of expanded coverage and cost containment. Borrowing ideas from both sides of the debate, here are four places to start: 

1) Protect the current, most beneficial and popular ACA provisions:

                a. No “age tax” because of pre-existing conditions;

                b. Prohibit annual and lifetime caps on health care benefits;

                c. Children can remain on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26; and

                d. Maintain the requirement that all marketplace plans cover basic health care services.

2) Expand Medicare, a highly effective, efficient plan, by allowing people under age 65 to buy into it. This public option is not a handout. It helps people nearing retirement while lowering costs for those in the private insurance markets. And, it strengthens Medicare’s ability to negotiate lower drug prices for its customers as well as better rates with hospitals and medical practitioners.

3) Secure payment of cost-sharing reductions to help stabilize the current healthcare marketplace and encourage insurance companies’ participation.

4) Drive health care coverage competition by looking for innovative ways to encourage creative solutions, like competition between the private sector and Medicare.

 I believe health care is a moral obligation but make no mistake, it is never “free.” In the public and private marketplaces, healthier individuals help pay for the less healthy ones. The bottom line is that the health care risk pool must be expanded with healthy individuals.

A measured, step-by-step transition to a simpler health insurance system that ensures universal coverage is what we need. The interplay of private insurers and a public system, focused on covering all Americans, bringing down costs and improving patient care, preserves our system’s strengths and protects the free market while offering better choices for consumers. 

Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, an emergency room physician and cancer research advocate, is a candidate for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District. After losing her mother and nephew to cancer, she left emergency medicine to concentrate on cutting-edge cancer research. Now she leads teams of researchers, clinicians, and patient advocates in the fight against breast cancer, prostate cancer and childhood leukemia. She is on the board of directors for the Maricopa Health Foundation.