Two years ago, a Nebraska dad contacted me about the sky-high cost of his 13-year-old son’s insulin. His son Matt, who had been newly diagnosed with type I diabetes, told me that he could not understand why the cost of his insulin had increased almost 1000%. I introduced a bill in his honor—Matt’s Act. It allows manufacturers to sell insulin directly to a patient, creating substantial cost savings for those in need.
Matt’s story is but one example of the difficulty facing Nebraskans after ten years of healthcare reform: the cost of healthcare continues to explode, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States of America ranks number one in the world in the cost of health care per person. Annual family health insurance premiums in our nation now average nearly $20,000 per family. A healthy couple retiring at 65 this year can expect to spend around $285,000 on health care in retirement. Even with these increasing costs, America’s health outcomes are among the lowest in the developed world.
Many Americans are understandably bewildered by Washington’s inability to fix the problem. They really want to know if it is actually possible for us to engage in an imaginative, solution-oriented manner––to improve health, to increase options, to provide better value, and to lower cost. I believe the answer is yes. If the jockeying for political superiority in this space could stop, there are real solutions to these questions.
The goal of better health comes down to affordable access to quality health insurance, coordinated care delivery, and prevention. The combination of these three things will substantially reduce costs, make people feel better, empower healthcare freedom, restore the doctor-patient relationship, and reduce the ever-shifting burden to centralized government control. Here are some of my initiatives:
Matt’s ACT is more than just about insulin or helping people with diabetes. It’s an attempt to take the drug that is most used in America and show how we can actually reform the entire drug delivery system.
The Rural Insurance Act was our attempt to stimulate new health insurance markets. In fact, inspired by this bill, the Nebraska Farm Bureau took their own initiative. The initial returns were very promising with substantial realized savings to farmers—sadly, conflicting legal interpretations have interfered with innovation.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act permanently protects pre-exiting conditions, so people only pay normal rates for their health insurance. The government provides reinsurance plans so markets can operate in a sustainable range.
Food as Medicine. Wellness and nutrition are integral parts of prevention and making us feel better. This is a very important part of my work as the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
ACT for ALS expands treatment options for persons with this cruel, aggressive, and deadly disease. But it also sets a marker for how we can expand access to treatments for many other diseases.
The Community Health Improvement, Leadership, and Development Act (the CHILD Act) is an innovative piece of legislation that gets at the ultimate driver of lower health care costs and better health outcomes. Just as there are Health Savings Accounts, there should be Community Saving Accounts. If a community is innovative in its health prevention approach, it gets to keep some of the savings from federal programs.
These are just a few examples of initiatives tied to the larger question: What do we want in any health care repair? Lower costs, better outcomes, protection for the most vulnerable.