Guest Commentary: Delawareans struggling to afford quality health care

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Kevin Musto is a pharmacist and the owner of Atlantic Apothecary.

Health care has gone through many iterations over the last few decades, many of which have revolved around making it both more affordable and more accessible. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically affected the finances of many Delawareans, forcing them to reevaluate their budgets and avoid spending on things they deem unessential. On top of this, Delawareans are finding that they are paying more and more for health care each year, yet receiving the same, or even poorer, levels of care.

It is no surprise that health care costs make up much of the yearly household expenditure. A new survey of Delaware voters from Impact Research and GBAO Research + Strategies, on behalf of Consumers for Quality Care, found that 56% of Delaware voters say, at some point, they’ve skipped or delayed care out of concerns over out-of-pocket costs. Also, according to the survey, 72% of Delaware voters say the costs of health care are going up more than other things they need. Deductibles and premiums are the costs that patients struggle with the most.

The survey also revealed that 82% of Delawareans think there are problems with the state’s health care system. When we look at health care quality, Delaware ranks sixth in the nation, and ranks 13th for health care access and second for hospital quality. However, when we look at health outcomes, the outlook is not as promising. Delaware ranks 30th in health outcomes and ranks at 43rd for preventable hospitalizations. Consumers aren’t just paying too much for health care, they are struggling to access the high-quality care they deserve.

No one should be so concerned with cost that they neglect to seek needed care. Routine doctor visits and procedures prevent significant health ailments from developing down the road. Ensuring that those in our state and throughout the nation can access quality care is not a partisan issue.

Not only are out-of-pocket costs high, but hospital pricing is also extremely difficult for consumers to navigate. Although transparency rules are in place, our policymakers need to ensure that these rules are being enforced and that consumers are not being deceived by hidden fees or marked-up charges that make care unaffordable.

Lastly, access to mental health care is an issue that has been plaguing Delaware for years. Thankfully, strides are being made. However, when polled, nearly 60% of voters nationwide agreed that it is difficult “to find mental health providers that are affordable or covered by insurance.” On top of this, 18% said that there was a lack of mental health providers available in general. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that, in Delaware, just 10% of the need is being met.

Delawareans want legislators to take direct measures to control costs. Legislation that aligns with the priorities of Delaware voters would entail capping insurance deductibles at a level low enough that people don’t go into debt when accessing standard health care. Additional measures would be capping the amount health insurers can charge patients overall and requiring health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to pass the rebates or discounts they receive from drug companies on to patients. Delawareans are counting on their elected officials to reform the health care system, so that it is more affordable, accessible and equitable.

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