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June 20, 2024 7:27 am

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Pennsylvanians Seek Common Sense Reforms to Rising Out of Pocket Health Care Costs | Opinion

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State Representative Jason Dawkins

Across the country, living has simply gotten more expensive. Whether it’s a regular trip to the grocery store or gas station, costs have increased, and many, both in Pennsylvania and nationally have felt the strain on their wallets. Another place far too many have felt that strain for years and will continue to feel it if there’s not common-sense reform, is with health care costs. 

2022 is a major year. The threat of COVID still looms large, a new health threat is on the horizon with the White House’s declaration of Monkeypox as a public health emergency, and on the electoral front, several states, including Pennsylvania will hold Senate elections that will determine the balance of power in that chamber. Control of that chamber may very well determine whether there’s meaningful action to curb out-of-pocket costs or if the status quo will remain. 

Recent polling from Hart Research and Impact Research conducted on behalf of Consumers for Quality Care (CQC) has shown that out-of-pocket costs––by a more than three-to-one margin over the next closest option––is the number one issue for Pennsylvanians in regards to health care. Beyond that, more than 80 percent of Pennsylvanians agree that costs for health care are rising annually, with another 73 percent agreeing that health care prices are rising more than other things they need. 

In an election year, in which races up and down the ballot are destined to be closely contested, candidates need to focus on the threat of rising health care costs. With nearly a quarter of the electorate persuadable to one side or the other, nearly three-quarters of voters are more apt to support a candidate the makes reigning in rising health care costs a top priority. With more than half of voters across key demographics – Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Persuadable Voters, and People of Color holding the same viewpoint. 

And there are specific measures that are strongly supported for reigning in these costs. Chief among them being caps on out-of-pocket costs and stronger regulation of pharmacy benefits. 

Over 70 percent of voters support requiring health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to pass the rebates or discounts they receive from drug companies on to patients. While another 68 percent are in favor of action to place a cap on the amount health insurers can make patients pay for their deductibles, copays, and other out-of- pocket costs. There’s broad support across party lines for direct cost control measures. 

The fact of the matter is that health care costs are a front-of-mind issue for many Americans, right up there with inflation and other rising costs associated with that. Pennsylvanians, regardless of party, race, financial status, etc. are looking for their politicians to take action to reduce these costs. As the 2022 midterm cycle reaches its final stage, and politicians in Congress continue to debate and pass legislation, there needs to be a serious focus on rising health care costs. Our health care system should be affordable for all Pennsylvanians, and it’s on our state and federal leaders to make it so. Healthcare affordability is on my agenda in Harrisburg and the Philadelphia delegation will be working with the sector to craft policies that lower costs for consumers.  

State Representative Jason Dawkins (D-Philadelphia)  represents the 179th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.