As part of the Pierce County Medical Society’s advocacy efforts to represent the interests of physicians and PAs, Executive Director Bruce Ehrle raised the following points at a recent fundraiser for US Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) at the home of PCMS Vice President Nicholas Rajacich, MD and co-hosted by among others, PCMS President Khash Dehghan, MD:
--Providers are at continual risk of having potential patients lose access to them because even for those with insurance, access is unaffordable due to increasing deductibles. In a recent survey, nearly half of insured individuals aged 45-59 skipped seeking health care due to the cost of deductibles and a quarter of seniors did as well. He stressed that a possible narrow solution is for the federal government to not just focus on premium assistance through the tax code but deductible assistance too. Wider solutions include providing strong incentives through the tax code for young healthy individuals to sign up for robust health insurance plans either through ACA or another means so that the insurance pools are larger and expanding federal health insurance programs to any citizen who falls through the cracks of the privately based marketplace, ACA, or Medicaid.
--Early career physicians are facing crushing debt and need assistance such as direct grants or loan payback programs tied to annual income with special incentives to promote new physicians to go in to primary care or behavioral health. Bruce also pushed for funding for new medical residency slots given the increasing shortage of such slots to place record numbers of students graduating from medical school amidst that shortage of primary care physicians and behavioral health specialists.
--Insurance companies need to be pressed, by law if necessary, to cover opioid addiction treatment programs and new (though more expensive) pain medications that are less addictive.
--The federal government needs to aggressively take steps to regulate and control costs for drugs by looking hard at issues like why the same drug costs far more in the US than other nations and what a wide reimportation program would look like. Bruce stressed that doctors are facing situations more than ever where their patients can’t afford the proper course of treatment including necessary prescription drugs due a combination of the price being prohibitively expensive and/or their insurance company refusing payment.
--Assistance is needed as a national priority to improve health literacy in America to encourage patients to establish primary care relationships, seek preventive care, and avoid the ER except for true emergencies.
Rep. Kilmer was appreciative of the input and indicated that he wished to work more closely than ever with PCMS to seek solutions over the long-term to these important issues that impact successful care outcomes for physicians, PAs, and their patients.