Available to Help Citizens Talk about Healthcare Costs - "Health Care: How Can We Reduce Costs and Still Get the Care We Need?"

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  • Health Care issue guide cover

Costs versus services, access and personal choices – these issues are at the heart of the national healthcare debate. The National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) works to stimulate discussion on issues of national importance and just released its latest issue guide: Health Care – How Can We Reduce Costs and Still Get the Care We Need?

“Healthcare is a massively complex and ever-changing issue every American citizen thinks about," said William Muse, president of NIFI. “We don’t offer a single solution. Instead, we provide current and objective information, thoroughly research ways the challenge could be addressed, and offer the advantages and disadvantages of each option to encourage deliberative discussion.”

Healthcare, a top domestic policy agenda in Congress and across the country since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, will be a bellwether issue in the 2016 presidential election. Public deliberation on the topic can provide the public voice necessary for policy makers to make sound decisions and this guide is designed to stimulate those types of discussions.

The guide presents three options for addressing this complex public issue, which were researched and compiled by the Kettering Foundation, a nonpartisan research institute that studies the public’s role in democracy. It provides an alternative means for moving forward in order to avoid polarizing rhetoric.  They are as follows:

  1. As a Nation and as Individuals, We Need to Live within Our Means: raise Medicare eligibility age to 67 and base it on financial need, make greater use of hospice care, have employees take on a greater portion of the costs, and encourage more doctors to go into primary care;
  2. Make the Healthcare System More Transparent, Efficient, and Accountable: the US healthcare system suffers from a lack of design, making it impossible for citizens to make good decisions – it needs transparency on cost/price, regulations and/or incentives to instill financial discipline and end greed and abuse; and
  3. Take Responsibility for Lowering Healthcare Costs by Focusing on Wellness: Unhealthy behaviors drive up healthcare costs by an estimated $147 billion a year – collective and individual efforts to improve healthy behaviors can lower those costs.

Each option is rooted in a shared concern and proposes several distinct strategies for addressing the problem. This guide does not favor any one option over another.

The purpose is for citizens to work through the options to make their own determinations. Each option presents the drawbacks inherent in each action. Recognizing these drawbacks allows people to see the trade-offs that they must consider in pursuing any action.

The issue guide, which is available on the NIFI website for purchase at a nominal price as either a digital download or hard copy, offers many facts and insights about an issue that will be increasingly at the forefront of public conversation.

NIFI issue guides are regularly used as resources in classroom settings, in moderated public forums, and as a way to help citizens and those interested in policy better understand today’s public policy challenges. It also includes some of the strategic facts needed to understand the context of the topic such as:

  • Other technically advanced countries spent 33% to 66% less per person and 12% less of their economies on healthcare
  • The US ranked last among 26 other high income countries in infant mortality and life expectancy
  • Despite spending far more on healthcare, we trail other countries in life expectancy and have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, and other ailments

Issue guides are prepared for the National Issues Forums Institute in collaboration with the Kettering Foundation. NIFI annually identifies several issues of national concern and develops materials meant to stimulate serious public deliberation about these issues by the public. They are available online at nifi.org or by calling 1.800.433.7834. Learn more and stay up to date by joining NIFI’s mailing list.