'Going backward is not an option' — Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson responds to Senate healthcare bill

Bernard J. Tyson, chairman and CEO of Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente, said that although the ACA is an imperfect legislation, future healthcare reform must build on its progress, not undo it.

Mr. Tyson's June 22 LinkedIn post was published the same day Senate Republicans unveiled their long-awaited healthcare reform bill. Though more moderate than the House-approved American Health Care Act, the Senate's Better Care for Reconciliation Act of 2017 would repeal Medicaid expansion, rescind the individual mandate, invoke tax cuts and enable states to opt out of coverage for essential health benefits, among other measures.

"We need to pause and ask policymakers to answer the most fundamental question: What does progress on healthcare look like for the people in America?" Mr. Tyson wrote. "Three simple, yet important, measures exist — and any change will be judged by history by its impact on access, affordability and outcomes."

Here are three key thoughts from Mr. Tyson on future healthcare policy, according to his LinkedIn post.

1. "We need to cover more people, not fewer people." The ACA enabled 20 million previously uninsured people to gain healthcare coverage, largely through the expansion of Medicaid and the provision of subsidies for those with low incomes. "Reasonable people can debate how we progress to a zero number of uninsured people, how generous the most basic coverage needs to be, and how we pay for it," Mr. Tyson wrote. "Let's be clear: This isn't a partisan goal." Any bill that increases the number of Americans without insurance is unacceptable, he added.

2. "Without question, we must make health care more affordable." This means the government, businesses and families alike will have to "foot the bill," he wrote. Mr. Tyson also pointed out "rising deductibles and premiums reflect the increasing costs of care delivery — not just adjusting rules around health coverage."

3. "We must do everything in our power to make sure a country as great as ours boasts the best health outcomes — the quality of care — in the world." The U.S. has among the poorest health outcomes compared to the other developed nations. The healthcare industry can improve quality if "we commit to moving from a predominantly 'sick care,' episodic, fee-for-service model to a predominantly preventive model with incentives for value, integrated care and, most important, keeping people healthy," Mr. Tyson wrote. Early detection and preventative services must be affordable to all, especially the most vulnerable to illness, to achieve this, he added.

"We can achieve better health for all if we deliver on the three-part test for access, affordability and outcomes. It will take time, and our country must reflect that we, as individuals and communities, must do better," he concluded.

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