Health Care Priorities for Next Congress

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Before pandemic lessons are forgotten, the next Congress should prioritize implementing health care policies according to what was learned.

Election day approaches quickly. But no matter who wins come November, Americans must urge Congress to prioritize health care policy.

Health care costs are consistently rising which endangers lives because costs can constrain patients from receiving needed care. Pandemic exigencies further highlighted shortcomings in our health care system. Before pandemic lessons are forgotten, the next Congress should prioritize implementing health care policies according to what was learned.

First, Congress should ensure that telehealth is here to stay. Authorized during the pandemic, telehealth’s popularity grew quickly. Convenient for both doctors and patients, telehealth results in lower costs and better health outcomes. In an age of rapid technological advances, being allowed to meet with your doctor virtually should be a no-brainer.

Luckily, solidifying telehealth provisions has garnered strong bipartisan support. The right-leaning Americans for Prosperity and left-leaning Progressive Policy Institute even issued a joint report showcasing how telehealth can save lives and money.

Considering telehealth’s popularity and obvious benefits, it’s surprising that the Senate still has not taken up H.R. 4040 Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID–19 Act of 2021, which passed the House with an overwhelmingly favorable vote of 416 to 12.

If the Senate does not take up H.R. 4040 or a similar bill during this session, Congress must try again to cement telehealth into law at the start of the new year.

Another indispensable lesson learned through the pandemic was the importance of loosening regulations to allow for needed innovations. Operation Warp Speed allowed scientists to forgo certain FDA rules to accelerate the development of vaccines.

The risk paid off. The United States quickly developed three safe and effective vaccines proving that cutting red tape literally saves lives.

While Congress may not have the authority to grant emergency use authorizations or order another Operation Warp Speed (both are up to the executive branch), Congress can certainly introduce legislation that makes the future development of vaccines, drugs, or tests swifter and simpler.

Since the pandemic, a few bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to allow medical innovation to flourish, but none have received much traction. Lawmakers should prioritize action on the issue during the next congressional session.

The new Congress would also be wise to learn from the mistakes of the current Congress and avoid passing legislation that will make health care less accessible and more expensive.

The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act included a provision that puts price controls on certain pharmaceutical drugs. While lawmakers may have good intent (costs are high), economic theory repeatedly demonstrates that price controls ultimately result in even higher prices. Thus, the IRA sadly only exacerbates the current costs in our health care system.

During the next legislative session, Congress should work quickly to reverse the IRA’s foolhardy pharmaceutical drug price controls.

Regardless of which party wins the majority in November, Congress should advance a health care vision focused on saving lives through the principles of affordability and innovation.

While only a few key healthcare policies were highlighted here, Pacific Research Institute’s recent healthcare policy to-do list for Congress provides a more comprehensive agenda of health care policies that benefit all Americans.

McKenzie Richards is a policy associate at the Pacific Research Institute.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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