Across the country, Americans are increasingly looking to elected leaders to address challenges in our health care system that have been brought to the fore by the COVID-19 crisis and response. Health care is top of mind for hardworking Americans who want to make sure their families are covered and cared for. But for lawmakers and health care industry leaders alike, this period of uncertainty means an opportunity to take an honest look at what’s working and what isn’t, and improve health care for everyone.
Earlier this month, Better Care America held a virtual roundtable hosted by AmeriHealth Caritas Pennsylvania, a leading health insurance provider in the Keystone State, with U.S. Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and local health care and community leaders. The group covered a wide range of topics.
What everyone agreed on: there’s more work to do to expand access to quality health care to Americans who need it.
Representative Houlahan insisted that “we need to try and learn from this really painful experience.” That means ensuring that personal protective equipment (PPE) and life-saving medications are fairly distributed, so Americans get the care they deserve, regardless of where they live and whether or not there’s an active public health crisis. She expressed concern about – and a need to focus on – patients who have skipped treatment due to anxiety about venturing to the doctor’s office.
Guy Ciarrocchi, President and CEO of Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry, praised the Congresswoman for her collaboration with local government offices and organizations like his to get the word out to Pennsylvanians, including the latest guidelines and information that have kept families safe.
Teri Henning, CEO of Pennsylvania Homecare Association (PHA), said that teamwork within the system has allowed for flexible, quality care for patients that need it. Her organization has worked with hospitals to discharge patients who could safely be cared for in their homes, avoiding exposure.
From the insurer’s perspective, keeping people covered has been a top priority according to Patty Byrnes, head of government relations for AmeriHealth Caritas. That’s why her company waived many co-payments and ensured that providers have the funding they need to continue delivering care.
One solution that has shined in this difficult moment, and that each participant praised, is expanded telehealth services that allow patients to meet with their doctor virtually from their own home. This has obvious benefits in the age of social distancing, but in more normal times, it also has the potential to close the access gap that Americans in rural and underserved communities often experience in accessing quality care. Insurers across the board have expanded coverage of these essential services.
But the need for progress in health care still is evident as the COVID-19 crisis continues to grip much of the nation. More equitable access to services for American patients is needed, as are increased attention to patient safety and mental health services. Representative Houlahan and local leaders all agreed: by engaging on these challenges together, health care can be improved for all Americans, with higher quality care and costs hardworking people can afford.
Better Care America is excited to continue engaging leaders in conversations that will lead to the improvements that will benefit all.