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LIBRE’s approach to increasing access to quality health care for Hispanics in 2021

America has one of the best health care systems in the world, boasting cutting edge research, top-notch doctors, and state-of-the-art equipment.

Nevertheless, our system needs reform.

There’s a reason Americans report consistent dissatisfaction with the costs of care and how difficult it can be to procure.

Hispanics, like all Americans, should have access to quality care at a price they can afford. To achieve that, we need a system that prioritizes choice and innovation over one that relies on mandates and onerous regulations. A top-down approach will not cut it.

What do these reforms look like?

Lawmakers must reject a public option

Most lawmakers have never directly seen the results of a government-controlled health care system. But many Latinos, especially those of us from authoritarian states like Venezuela and Cuba, certainly have. We know that systems like these produce extreme shortage and inferior care.

Advocates of a top-down system like “Medicare for All” claim their plan would reduce per-capita spending on care. How would they accomplish this?

The same way the United Kingdom’s National Health Service does: Rationing care. The NHS limits the number of health care professionals available so it can cut costs, which is why the country habitually suffers from a shortage of physicians and nurses.

The NHS also rations treatment for patients, even for illnesses as severe as cancer and heart disease. The system’s extensive wait times have consequences, producing disastrous results for health care outcomes in the U.K.

Venezuela has experienced a much worse outcome with its adoption of government-run health care, where the country’s hospitals almost entirely lack treatments, medicine, and supplies.

Lawmakers must reject any measure that would replicate those results here.

Make a personal option available to all Americans

Americans need a health care system in which choice, quality, and affordability are top-priority concerns. Congress has a huge role to play here. It must lower the hurdles over which Americans must jump to access care. An option like this would help bring more care to the Hispanic community, for whom access to care has long been a concern.

Congress could start with tax-free health savings accounts, which enable people to stretch their health care dollar and have more control of their health care decisions. These accounts are saddled with needless regulations that restrict their use. Lawmakers should codify reforms that allow HSA owners to purchase new and innovative types of care with their accounts, which would give Americans more choices.

What’s more, Congress should consider codifying recent reforms to employer-sponsored health reimbursement arrangements (HRA), which now allow millions of employees to purchase tax-free individual insurance plans.

They should also strengthen HRAs by allowing employees to use those tax-free dollars to purchase short-term renewable insurance plans, which can be much more affordable than traditional plans.

An ‘all of the above’ approach to COVID-19

Promising vaccines have given us a path out of the pandemic. But there is still much we can do to ensure a rapid, efficient, and safe recovery.

This will require an “all of the above” approach.

To start, lawmakers must push the FDA to more quickly approve new vaccines that have received complete clinical trial data.

But before we reach herd immunity, testing for and treating patients afflicted with the coronavirus will remain a critical task. That’s why the FDA must approve an inexpensive COVID-19 paper strip test, allowing Americans to get their results in minutes from the comfort of their own homes, and speed up approvals for new COVID-19 therapeutics and medical devices.

Finally, we must codify the emergency reforms states took early on to mitigate the health toll of the pandemic.

In most states, mandates that reduce choice and raise costs were temporarily suspended to meet the needs of their residents.

Take, for example, the certificate-of-need (CON) laws active in 35 states across the country. These restrictions prevent hospitals and other providers from opening new facilities and purchasing new equipment.

This was a problem before the pandemic, but during this health crisis these kinds of restrictions could have been disastrous. That’s why 24 states opted to suspend their CON laws in March.

That’s a start. But to lock-in these helpful reforms, states should permanently repeal these laws, as well as others — such as scope-of-practice restrictions — that make care less accessible.

To learn more about these reforms and how they can help America recover from this health crisis, read the LIBRE Initiative’s 2021 federal policy agenda.