Lawmakers focus on prevention, cures to curb US health insurance costs

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (DS.C.) and Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) discussed their differing visions for an improved health care system on Wednesday, with the Democrat focusing largely on prevention and the Republican on breakthroughs in cures.

Schweikert told The Hill’s Steve Clemons that shifting the system from the current “maintenance model” to a “curative model” would eventually reduce healthcare needs and bring costs down for the insurance industry.

“Maybe instead of spending our money in a maintenance model, it’s now time to say that we as Americans are going to fixate on the curative model, because that has the long-term benefit of crashing health care spending,” he said at The Hill’s “Closing the Gaps in Health Insurance” event.

“And it is shocking the lack of embracing of that idea around here because it blows up much of the healthcare business model.”

Some 60% of Americans report skipping or delaying treatment because out-of-pocket costs are too high, according to a poll commissioned by Consumers for Quality Care, which sponsored Wednesday’s event.

Schweikert noted that people with chronic diseases represented the majority of healthcare spending in the country, meaning that finding cures for diseases like diabetes would create disproportionate savings in the system.

The co-chair of the House Telehealth Caucus also said that expanding at-home access to medical technologies could lower healthcare costs.

Clyburn focused on increased investment in preventing health-related costs that arise from polluted air, unsanitary water, and gun violence.

“These preventive measures, if we were to do a better job of that, I think that in and of itself would bring health care costs down, and it would keep people healthier longer and they would live a better quality of life,” Clyburn said at the event.

President Biden has also expressed interest in reforming the healthcare system, calling on Congress during his State of the Union Address to fund the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), which would support biomedical research aimed at finding cures and treatments for various diseases.

Additionally, Biden temporarily increased financial assistance under ObamaCare as part of the American Rescue Plan, but when those grants expire this year, premiums are set to increase.

Clyburn and Schweikert said that there is much more to be done to ensure that the healthcare and health insurance systems serve Americans adequately.

“We have not done enough. If we will ever do enough, I don’t know,” Clyburn said. “It requires a will that we have not developed in this country to say, ‘We are going to do something about this.’”

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