A two-party approach to health care

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The fate of America’s health-care system, the focus of our nation’s most important — and most heavily politicized — public-policy debate is in the hands of the Senate, where senators get their turn to find a balanced and sustainable approach to health-care reform.

It is clear that the bill passed by the House in May will not meet the challenges of our health-care system. This bill calls into question coverage for the vulnerable, fails to provide the necessary resources to ensure that no one is left out and puts the health and well-being of millions of hard-working people in our states at risk, while shifting significant costs to the states. Medicaid provisions included in this bill are particularly problematic.

All Americans will come out on the losing end if we simply replace one divisive plan with another, having failed to find a bipartisan solution to bringing lasting reform that can be sustained across administrations. It will be worse yet if senators — like House members before them — decide these questions behind closed doors, avoiding the open discussion and transparency needed to make the American people full participants in this vital debate.

We certainly agree that reforms need to be made to our nation’s health-care system. But as governors from opposite sides of the political aisle, we feel that true and lasting reforms are best approached by finding common ground in a bipartisan fashion.

Along with other governors — Democrats and Republicans — we agree that the best place to start is to restore stability to our nation’s health insurance system.

We and other like-minded governors have been working together to create a blueprint that can result in an improved health insurance system that is available and affordable for every American. We recognize that this is not an easy task. That is why our first step has been to develop a set of guiding principles that will positively impact the coverage and care of millions of Americans, including many dealing with mental illnesses, chronic health problems and drug addiction. These principles:

Improve affordability: Insurance reforms that increase access to quality, affordable health insurance coverage must be coupled with reforms that address rising health-care costs. Insurance reforms should be made in a manner that is consistent with sound and sustainable cost-control practices.

Restore stability to insurance markets: Americans without access to employer-sponsored coverage or government plans need to be able to choose from a healthy, stable and competitive market of insurers.

Provide state flexibility and encourage innovation: As laboratories of democracy, states can develop innovative approaches with the potential to strengthen health insurance for all Americans. Within broad standards, states should have appropriate flexibility to implement reforms in a manner that is responsive to local and regional market conditions.

Improve the regulatory environment: As the principal regulators of insurance, states are in the best position to promote competition within state insurance markets. Federal efforts should limit duplicative and burdensome regulations and provide relief to small-business owners and individuals.

The Affordable Care Act expanded coverage but it needs improvement. Uncertainty in our current health insurance market has helped make it unstable. As passed by the House, the American Health Care Act threatens to create greater uncertainty. Historically, one-party solutions are not sustainable. The bipartisan principles we propose provide a more stable starting point to bring Republicans and Democrats together on lasting reforms.

Ensuring that quality health insurance is available and affordable for every American is a bipartisan responsibility. The states are uniquely positioned to meet this responsibility and to make our health insurance sector vibrant, stable and fair.

As governors, we and our colleagues who have signed on to this effort stand ready to work with our congressional delegations to develop a proposal that is fiscally sound and provides affordable coverage for our most vulnerable citizens. Our states — and all Americans — deserve nothing less.

John Kasich, a Republican, is governor of Ohio. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, is governor of Colorado.

 

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A two-party approach to health care

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