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Featured Events | May 03, 2017 |

Healthcare reform means bridging the gaps

By Emily Raleigh

According to the Bloomberg National Poll, healthcare was the second most important issue to the American voter in the 2016 election, just trailing unemployment and job security.

That made the visit of Karen Ignagni, EmblemHealth’s president and CEO, all the more relevant to the Gabelli School community.

For decades, Ignagni has played a pivotal role in the discussion of healthcare affordability and access. She previously served as the president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, directed the AFL-CIO’s employee benefits department, and was a staff member on the U.S. Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She also worked with the late Senator Ted Kennedy on his proposals for healthcare reform.

At a session organized by the Gabelli School’s Global Healthcare Innovation Management Center, Ignagni used these experiences to illustrate the journey of American healthcare reform, emphasizing the trials and tribulations along the way.

“[The Affordable Care Act] was the first time all of the stakeholders came to the table,” she explained.

While that may be the case, she said, there is still a long way to go to iron out the complexities of the American healthcare system, namely marrying the business and consumer necessities required to construct a beneficial plan.

There is some social responsibility to purchasing healthcare,” she said. “To maintain affordability, you have to have a risk pool that balances the young and old, the sick and healthy.”

One of the complications, she said, is that the younger, statistically healthier population—those between the ages of 20 and 30—are not purchasing healthcare if they do not feel they need it. This causes an imbalance in the risk pool, which has dramatic business-side fallout.

“Hospitals don’t work if we don’t pay them what they need. There are all of these economic pieces that we don’t always think about,” she said. “To find a way from here, the decision-makers need to bridge the gaps.”

Ignagni said that in bridging those gaps, the healthcare reform conversation has become more layered, creating debate that is at once more detailed and broader. From ethical questions over what more can be done to help middle-class and low-income families to strategic questions on preventative measures versus catastrophic response, there are many perspectives that must be taken into consideration.

When all is said and done in Congress, Ignagni said, it comes down to finances.

“Nothing divides Democrats and Republicans more than financial formulas,” she said. “To figure out a bipartisan path, they need to find common grounds on their world view of government’s role in healthcare.”

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