The needs of patients should occupy the very center of the health care system. Patients should enjoy the benefits of safe, state-of-the art practice, no matter where they live. Patients and caregivers should be “in the loop” of communication with medical professionals. Health information technology should be expanded as a tool to help doctors and patients make good decisions, with adequate safeguards for individual privacy. Payment systems should reward doctors for good outcomes and not simply for volume of treatments.
Prevention makes sense for individuals and society, and we as a nation should do much more to reap the benefits. People can reduce their risks of costly illness by making the right personal choices, such as eating healthy food, getting exercise and not smoking. Doctors should be compensated for efforts to prevent illness and promote health. Insurance should fully cover recommended screenings and immunizations. Older patients should make use of new provisions in the Affordable Care Act that cover 100% of the cost of important health screenings and an annual wellness exam.
Making Sure Drugs are Affordable
Drugs often cost more than patients can afford, particularly brand-name medications that have patent protection. AARP advocates several ways to combat rising costs. Research comparing different drugs could help doctors make cost-effective decisions on what to prescribe. Generic versions of expensive biologic drugs used for various illnesses, including rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, should become available much more quickly than permitted under current law.
AARP also supports transparency of marketing practices by the pharmaceutical industry in order to protect the public from conflicts of interest. Doctors should disclose when they accept gifts from drug companies. The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services should be authorized to directly negotiate lower drug prices, as other advanced countries do. Barriers to legal importation of drugs from Canada should be lifted, with appropriate safeguards to protect safety.