Aspen Ideas Festival: Prescriptions for a better health future

A panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival,
"Prescriptions for the Future" panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival featuring (from left to right): Ezekiel Emanuel, Ken Davis and Elliot Gerson.
Dan Bayer | The Aspen Institute

A recent Aspen Ideas Festival discussion featured two doctors with ideas about how to improve our health care system, regardless of what Congress may or may not do.

Both doctors believe we can lower the cost and improve the quality of health care in America.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and the chair of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said there are three steps to shore up exchanges and keep premiums down.

First you must say you're going to enforce a mandate, or some version of a mandate, that is strong enough so everyone is in the system.

Second you have to guarantee cost sharing subsidies — these help people pay deductibles and co-pays. "The reason that's important is, if the federal government doesn't pay it, insurance companies are liable for that, and that means they're just going to jack up the premiums substantially," Emanuel said.

The third thing you need to do is put a system of risk protection in place for insurance companies. If too many sick people are coming to these companies the cost to cover them all may become too much, in which case the government would help cover the premium, Emanuel said.

And the work to get and keep people in the health insurance system is worth it, said Dr. Ken Davis, a neurobiologist, psychiatrist, pharmacologist and president and CEO of Mt. Sinai Health System.

If people are able to get the care they need, they aren't sitting at home sick or taking care of sick loved ones; they are out in the workforce, contributing to the community, Davis said, adding "An investment in health care is an investment in America."

The session was moderated by Elliot Gerson of the Aspen Institute on June 28, 2017 in Aspen, Colorado.

To listen to their conversation, click the audio player above.

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