Thursday, December 02, 2021

Support for VA hospitals and lowering health care costs

| November 17, 2021 1:00 AM

Our health care system has been pushed to the brink over the last year and a half. From the height of Covid in 2020 when hospital beds were full across the country and non-emergency treatment was being postponed nationwide, to where we are now with vaccines widely available and the most serious impacts of this disease prevented by shots, the health care system has been working in overdrive for 18 straight months.

Unfortunately, some disappointing information about health care in this country was made evidently clear when our health care system was put under a microscope during the pandemic. Chief among them being that not every individual in the United States has the same fair shot at accessing the high-quality, affordable health insurance that is needed for overall health and well-being.

This is particularly true in rural communities, where Covid case counts were often higher and access to care was far more limited. Montanans are well aware of the benefits that come with having high-quality, accessible and affordable care even in the most rural parts of the state. It’s part of the reason why they strongly support rural Veterans Affairs hospitals and offices, and why 92% of Montana voters said they think it’s important that policymakers prevent their closures in recent polling from ALG Research and Lake Research Partners, conducted on behalf of Consumers for Quality Care. Beyond that, 82% are in support of improved broadband access to allow for greater access to telemedicine.

The fact of the matter is that guaranteeing access to health care, particularly for rural Montanans, is a major priority for voters in the state. A second priority is ensuring that the care Montanans receive is affordable.

Though coming out of the pandemic, over 60% of Montana voters agree there needs to be caution in making changes to the health care system, there’s widespread support for legislation to lower deductibles (95%), as well as for reducing overall insurance costs (49%). For far too many in the state, insurance is simply unaffordable, the majority of Montanans (82%) agree that that the amount they pay for health care seems to be going up every year.

The time is now for common sense reforms to the health care system, and that includes guaranteeing access to care, including for those in the most rural parts of Montana and the country writ large, and also guaranteeing individuals can afford their insurance and the care they need to thrive. As the country emerges from the pandemic, there is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the health care system to make sure it works for all consumers. It’s paramount that state and federal lawmakers take advantage of it.

Josh Manning is a combat veteran and former Missoula resident. He now lives in Tacoma, Washington.