Karl Hanlon Guest Column: Health care solutions need to put people first | PostIndependent.com

Karl Hanlon Guest Column: Health care solutions need to put people first

Karl Hanlon
Guest Opinion

Every day, all over western and southern Colorado, people are forced into making difficult decisions about their health care. As costs escalate and access to quality care becomes more difficult, many families must choose between medical care and food and shelter.

Health care plans for healthy young adults in the 3rd Congressional District can cost in excess of $1,200 per month, and even more for older Coloradans. Right now, I pay more for my family’s health care than I do for my mortgage.

In 2016, Republicans took complete control of the federal government — both houses of Congress and the presidency — promising to “reform” health care. Even with the power to write and schedule legislation with no Democratic input, they have been unable or unwilling to find real solutions for real people.

Countless votes to repeal the ACA with no plan for replacing it have done nothing to help. In fact, the Republican repeal of the individual mandate will drive costs up in our district another 10 percent, even after costs have risen 50 percent during this year’s renewal process. Those that voted for the repeal frame it as a win — and it certainly is for insurers and health care providers — but it isn’t for you and me.

We cannot afford a vision of a health care system where profits come first, and people come last.

I am running for U.S. representative from the 3rd Congressional District because I believe that to get solutions in Washington, we have to listen to what people are saying here.

There are several ways we can work together at the state and federal level to lower costs and create access to quality health care. At the state level the Legislature needs to take action this session to make Colorado a single rating area for insurance costs. This would increase costs slightly on the populous Front Range but would lower costs significantly in western and southern Colorado.

More importantly, we need to begin looking at health care costs and outcomes in a truly transparent way, one that allows us to understand what we are actually paying for.

As I meet with voters across the 3rd District, no one understands why a bandage costs 30 cents with one provider and $3 with another. Or why ibuprofen costs $15 a pill at a hospital while it costs $10 for 150 at the grocery store down the road. The cost of having a baby can vary by hundreds and even thousands of dollars between two hospitals within an hour’s drive of each other.

Health care providers must be required to publish their costs and outcomes in a way that is accessible to the general public. We cannot solve a problem when the facts of that problem are deliberately obscured from us. Until we as consumers — and as voters — have the ability to understand what and why we are being charged, there is no ability for us make informed decisions.

As your representative, I will work to make this change.

In many of our West Slope and southern Colorado counties there is only one health insurance provider. Without competition, there is no incentive for insurers to keep costs reasonable. In fact, the opposite is true — the system gives insurers and health care providers incentives to raise your prices to staggering levels. By making the state a single insurance region, we can promote more competition. We can also expand the number of people who qualify for Medicaid in areas with only one provider, so people don’t have to choose between feeding their families or getting the health care they need.

The real solutions require our elected representatives in Congress to work out a system that ensures we all have access to health care at a reasonable cost. Our families, our friends, and our neighbors are suffering while Congress continues to act on party line votes. When it comes to health care — like so many other issues — we can’t afford to wait to make a change.

Karl Hanlon is a Carbondale resident and attorney based in Glenwood Springs who is running as a Democrat for the 3rd Congressional District seat.