United States of Care is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the goal of every American having access to quality and affordable healthcare.
"The health of our nation is more important than any political party or partisan victory. United States of Care will chart a path toward a long-term healthcare solution, starting by checking allegiances at the door and putting the patient—our citizens—first." Dr. Bill Frist, former U.S. Senate majority leader and current USofC board member, said these words at our founding just one year ago. We continue to live by them.
With Washington, D.C., slow to make progress on healthcare, we have looked to the laboratories of our democracy—the 50 state governments—to lead our nation and help us chart a path advancing healthcare for everyone. Recently, we have seen significant progress in state legislatures across the country. Acting as a resource, facilitator, convener and technical expert, USoC has connected with healthcare leaders, advocates and others in over 30 states and has formally engaged with partners in Connecticut, Minnesota and New Mexico to support advances in healthcare delivery—learning best practices to share with other states.
Throughout America and across income groups, Americans say affording healthcare is their most important financial problem. The majority of Americans, across party lines, are concerned about surprise medical bills, prescription drug prices, and coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. This is why state leaders are responding to their constituents' concerns and seeking policies to make our healthcare system work better for everyone.
This unifying feeling—that healthcare is out of reach and unaffordable to many even when one has insurance—eclipses political party and is moving state legislatures across the country to address it. Each state is different, however, and the way lawmakers fix issues—ranging from skyrocketing prescription drug costs to finding ways to make additional coverage choices available and protecting people from financial devastation due to surprise medical bills—is unique in every state.
The progress being made state-by-state is a promising march toward the ultimate goal of every single American having access to quality, affordable healthcare regardless of health status, social need or income. Our 2019 State Health Policy Progress analysis hows examples of meaningful progress in 14 states across the country.
These state successes are emerging from across the country and from all types of states.
Colorado enacted bipartisan legislation directing two state agencies to develop a plan for creating a competitive state insurance plan by Nov. 15, 2019. This new law gives Colorado officials the authority necessary to pursue the federal waivers required to implement the plan. The main goal is to take on the problem of unaffordable coverage in regions of the state, overwhelmingly rural, where insurer competition and affordable coverage is limited or nonexistent.
Colorado also entered 2019 as one of six states with a "C" grade on enforcement of mental health parity. To remedy this, Colorado passed bipartisan legislation to step up requirements for mental health and physical health services to be covered equally. The legislation also increases much needed enforcement and oversight of mental health parity laws.
Minnesota, the only state with legislative chambers controlled by opposite parties, showed that state leaders can come together across party lines to address pressing problems. Policymakers were faced with the expiration of the state's provider tax, which helps pay for MinnesotaCare, Medicaid and other vital services that provide care to over 1.2 million Minnesotans.
Leaders from both parties came together to maintain this crucial funding source and extend the state's reinsurance program for an additional two years. In Minnesota, reinsurance has reduced premiums by 20% in the individual insurance market. The state also reached a consensus on laws to improve mental health access, lower prescription drug costs, expand access to telehealth, address the opioid crisis, and strengthen elder care protections.
In a near-unanimous bipartisan vote, Georgia created an Office of Health Strategy and Coordination. The office will serve as a resource to better integrate services provided by the state's various health and human services agencies as well as private entities.
In Maryland, bipartisan legislation created the Maryland Easy Enrollment Health Insurance Program, enabling the state to use information gathered from income taxes to more easily enroll uninsured individuals in Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Plan, or subsidized exchange coverage. Additionally, beginning in 2020, uninsured tax filers in Maryland can simply check a box to be screened for eligibility for these coverage options and begin the enrollment process in a more streamlined way.
These new initiatives show state lawmakers are taking their own proactive and creative approaches to ensure affordable and accessible healthcare for their residents. The example set by state leaders, and the victories they are achieving show that we can change the narrative to put healthcare over politics. We hope Washington, D.C., is paying attention.