At the NCPA annual convention, Bill Clinton praised pharmacists for their practical approach to serving patients and argued that health care reform will help curb costs and improve care.
The Affordable Care Act will help reduce overall health care costs while providing improved health care to millions of Americans, former President Bill Clinton said on October 14, 2013, in the keynote speech at the annual convention of the National Community Pharmacists Association in Orlando. Clinton also lauded pharmacists for their commitment to improving patients’ health.
“I think that community pharmacists have always been on the forefront of health care reform,” Clinton told 3000 convention attendees. “You know whether [patients are] taking their meds responsibly or whether they aren’t. You know whether the medicine is in proper supply or whether it isn’t. … You deal with all this in a practical way, and whatever the policy is, you actually have to look into the eyes of a real live human being and say, ‘This is not working.’”
The United States ranks first in the world in terms of the portion of income spent on health care, said Clinton, noting that this had reached a peak several years ago. “It would be worth it if we were the healthiest country in the world,” said Clinton. “Every single international study—I have collected a bunch of them over the last 10 years—has ranked us somewhere between 25th and 33rd in the world in the health of our population.”
In addition, Clinton noted, the 40 million people in the United States who lack health insurance get inefficient treatment through emergency departments, which is often ultimately paid for by those who have insurance. Health care costs are also a major cause of personal bankruptcies and have prevented workers from getting raises because employers have to pay more for insurance premiums, Clinton pointed out.
Since the Affordable Care Act became law, however, Clinton said that the United States has had “3 years of the lowest inflation in 50 years of health care costs.” Other benefits of the law trumpeted by Clinton included provisions that allow children up to age 26 to get insurance through their parents, that allow patients to get preventive health services without a copayment, and that disallow insurance companies from charging extra to patients with preexisting conditions.
Clinton acknowledged that the rollout of the health insurance exchanges
has been rocky. “Are there problems?” he asked. “You bet there are. These computer systems are having a hard time responding to the demand because it turns out that after being told that America hated this and nobody wanted it, so many people wanted insurance they basically jammed the computers and took the systems down starting on October 1.”
To offer some perspective, Clinton recalled that there were also major problems when the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit was first implemented in 2006. “There were people showing up in your pharmacies who couldn’t get their medication when in some cases it was a life-or-death deal,” he said. “There were horrible problems, but we worked through them. … And now, if you tried to repeal the drug benefit … you’d have a minor riot on your hands."
"That’s not true—you’d have a major riot on your hands,” Clnton added, inspiring laughter in the audience.
There are a number of tweaks that would help improve health care reform, Clinton noted, including allowing someone who gets insurance through their employer to access subsidies when buying insurance for the rest of their family as well as expanding tax credits for employers with fewer than 50 employees.
“There are a number of other things that need to be fixed,” Clinton said, “but the most important thing is we should be trying to help everybody understand it, trying to implement it, identifying the problems, and fixing the problems, because we are reforming a system which is necessary for the lifeblood of every free successful society.”
Clinton ended his speech on an optimistic note, expressing hope that the country’s political leaders would follow the example set by pharmacists. “There is nothing we are facing that we can’t fix,” he said. “But the people who are dealing with these challenges have got to think like you do when somebody shows up to get a prescription refilled. I don’t mean to oversimplify, but just because a problem has a lot of moving parts doesn’t mean you still don’t need to be practical and work together. Cooperation is more important under those circumstances. So whatever your philosophy, I ask you to try to get people around the corner and in state capitals and in Washington to think more like you do.”