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Weekly Column: Health Care Priorities--Enhancing Health Care Options And Delivery Across Idaho And Our Country

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

As Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, I am committed to a health care agenda that provides Idahoans with the affordability, quality, choice and control that they want, need and deserve.  Access and affordability remain pressing challenges for far too many working families, especially in the face of rampant inflation and other economic pressures.  Idahoans deserve an accountable, fiscally responsible government that advances meaningful solutions for patients at the pharmacy counter, the doctor’s office and the hospital.  The reckless tax-and-spend policies of the past two years fall drastically short of that standard.  Congress can and must do better. 

Whether rising costs, workforce shortages or burdensome red tape, our health care programs have struggled to meet the needs of patients, job creators and frontline providers across Idaho, particularly in rural communities.  Policies like the government price controls enacted under the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” risk exacerbating these and other challenges, triggering hundreds fewer new treatments and cures in the years to come, along with higher launch prices for life-saving medications.   

As we move into the 118th Congress, policymakers must pursue a more effective, more efficient and more patient-focused path forward.  Fortunately, we have some cause for optimism, even in the midst of a fraught political environment.   

Last year, I worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance a package of serious health care solutions, aimed at producing real results for Idahoans while reducing our staggering deficit by billions of dollars.  This legislation, which was signed into law in December, extends telehealth coverage for seniors and workers with high-deductible health plans for two years, providing a promising bipartisan bridge to long-term reforms. 

We also enacted a wide range of mental health policies that will increase care options for patients, particularly in rural communities, and will help to combat the growing physician burnout that has led many to close up shop or retire in recent years.  The enactment of these and numerous other pivotal mental health provisions marked the culmination of two years of bipartisan work by the Finance Committee. 

We need to build on these consumer-oriented and financially sustainable policies to enhance health care delivery across the Gem State and the country as a whole.  In practice, this will mean securing lasting telehealth access for seniors and families, refining Medicare payment systems to strengthen our provider workforce and reward value, accelerating seniors’ access to life-saving medical breakthroughs, and promoting state flexibilities to improve patient outcomes and lower costs.  

We should look to success stories like Medicare Advantage as models, with the capacity to provide better choices and benefits for seniors.  Our programs work best when they embrace public-private partnerships and empower patients, rather than rely on big-government expansion and wasteful spending.  As this Committee demonstrated last year, we can achieve ambitious goals while increasing efficiencies, protecting taxpayers and prolonging program solvency.  

As Ranking Member, I will exercise assertive oversight of the executive branch.  This will prove particularly essential for the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act’s market-distorting drug price controls, given the threat they pose to current and future patients, as well as our economy and global leadership on health care innovation.  As the federal bureaucracy moves forward with these price-fixing programs, I will work to mitigate the harms the law risks imposing, while ensuring fair and transparent processes that benefit all Americans. 

Opportunities for improvement abound for all of our health care programs.  I am committed to working together with my colleagues in both chambers of Congress to deliver better results for Idahoans across our great state.  

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