The November 6 election features races in all but one of Pennsylvania’s 18 newly drawn congressional districts, as well as contests for a U.S. Senate seat and Pennsylvania governor. All Pennsylvania state House seats are open, and half of the Senate seats are, as well. Considering that this election could determine which party controls Congress next year, it’s an important and dizzying array of choices for voters to make.
As you consider the records and backgrounds of the legislative candidates in your area, as well as those of the gubernatorial candidates, it’s important to see where they stand on health care issues. It’s entirely possible that decisions by elected officials in Washington and Harrisburg will affect where and how you and your family receive care, and how much you’ll pay for it. Healthy Me PA is making information available that you may use as a starting point to research candidates in your area before heading to the polls.
Health insurance: There are some clear differences in positions about the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Many Republican candidates have spoken about their desire to repeal the ACA. Many Democratic candidates want to retain the ACA, perhaps with modifications. Find out where the candidates running in your community stand and why, as policies around the future of the ACA will impact access to health care coverage.
Repealing the law will knock out some protections, namely the provision that requires affordable coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Reverting to pre-ACA days could mean that health insurers can refuse to cover you if you have a pre-existing health condition. People whose jobs don’t offer insurance could have difficulty finding or affording coverage without the ACA.
Medication costs: There seems to be universal agreement that prescription medications are expensive. There’s virtually no consensus on how to address the issue. Various proposals floating in Washington, each fraught with pros and cons, include importing prescription drugs from other countries, letting Medicare negotiate directly with drugmakers, including a drug’s price in consumer advertising, blocking companies from preventing production of generic versions of their drugs, and extending rebates to consumers.
Medicare funding: Medicare is health insurance mainly for people 65 and older, but it also helps millions of disabled people. Health care costs continue to rise, the country and state are aging, and there are fewer younger workers to contribute to the program. Slow wage growth and tax cuts have taken a toll on the funding stream. The Medicare Trust this year said its main trust fund would be depleted by 2026. Some Republican candidates proposed cutting funding for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to address the growing federal deficit.
Telemedicine: Pennsylvania legislators have been considering proposals to allow for innovations in health care delivery. One bill, already passed by the Senate and House Professional Licensure Committee, defines telemedicine and makes sure insurers cover such virtual visits if they cover that same care when delivered in-person. Find out how candidates view the importance of using technology to expand access to health care services.
Hospital funding: During the development of the state budget each year, lawmakers make decisions about funding specialized services for burn and trauma units, and maternity and neonatal care, as well as special funding for rural hospitals. Funding for these specialty services is at risk every budget year. Make sure you find out if your candidate will support ongoing appropriate funding for these important services.
Opioid treatment: This year, the Governor declared a state of emergency to help battle the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania, enabling the health care community to offer more help to patients. Hospitals are on the front line of the fight against opioid use disorder and hope to work with state and local officials to increase access to options including, additional outpatient treatments and increased behavioral health services. Make sure candidates understand that this epidemic can’t be treated just with an anti-overdose drug. Find out what their long-term solutions are to address the crisis.
Make your vote count for your health and the health of your fellow Pennsylvanians.
Look for candidates in your district using this searchable, nonpartisan guide, and search candidates’ websites for more information on their positions on health issues.