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4 Key Takeaways from Healthline’s Town Hall on Healthcare Policy

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Healthline Editor-in-Chief Erin Petersen (top left) and Healthline Media Vice President of Communications Steve Swasey (top right) talked with Dr. Susan Bailey (bottom left) and Dr. Jamila Taylor (bottom right) about major issues affecting Americans’ healthcare.

The Affordable Care Act, racial disparities in healthcare, the cost of care, and living with a preexisting condition — these are the top healthcare issues at stake in the upcoming presidential election.

A group of healthcare industry leaders and advocates gathered virtually to discuss the weight these issues carry this election in a live Town Hall hosted by Healthline Thursday.

Healthline Editor-in-Chief Erin Petersen moderated the discussion and Healthline Media Vice President of Communications Steve Swasey hosted the event.

The event covered major issues from the Affordable Care Act to racial disparities in healthcare.

Here’s what to consider when evaluating how your vote could influence the United States healthcare system.

The full town hall can be viewed below.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was passed in 2010, has helped millions of Americans with preexisting conditions, like diabetes or asthma, get fair, affordable coverage.

The law made it illegal for insurers to either reject or charge higher rates for people with preexisting conditions.

But the fate of the ACA is being threatened this election. Democratic candidate Joe Biden wants to expand and improve upon the ACA, whereas President Trump wants to repeal the law.

Dr. Susan Bailey, the president of the American Medical Association (AMA), says the AMA, which is a nonpartisan group, has been in support of the ACA for years and believes in improving the ACA rather than ditching it altogether.

“We believe it is crucial that all Americans have affordable, meaningful coverage,” Bailey said during the Town Hall.

The cost of care and prescription drugs is another top concern in the upcoming election, as high healthcare costs can be a huge barrier to receiving care.

“There’s no question that the cost of healthcare, in general, but specifically the cost of drugs, is completely out of control,” Bailey said.

Bailey says the overall lack of transparency in drug pricing is a significant issue. There are too many middle men and obstacles that have come between the drug manufacturers and patients that have caused drug prices to skyrocket, according to Bailey.

Dr. Jamila Taylor, the director of healthcare reform and senior fellow at progressive nonpartisan think tank The Century Foundation, says we need to think about how to make healthcare more affordable.

“In terms of prescription drugs, there needs to be clear transparency on the direction of where we’re going in terms of having more generics accessible to more Americans,” Taylor said.

Mila Clarke Buckley, a woman with type 1.5 diabetes, and Mariah Zebrowski Leach, a mother of three who has rheumatoid arthritis (RA), joined the discussion to shed some light on how healthcare policies impact what it’s like to live with a chronic condition.

Buckley said diabetes is one of the most expensive conditions to treat. Between insulin drug prices, which continue to skyrocket year after year, diabetes tech supplies, glucose monitors, and doctors’ appointments, the costs have become unaffordable.

“Patients have to make sacrifices to be able to afford their care,” Buckley said.

Some travel out of the country to get cheaper drugs in Canada and Mexico. Others ration their insulin because they can’t afford to get more.

Leach says a big chunk of her family’s budget goes toward treating her RA.

“These medications are extremely expensive, as in thousands of dollars a month,” Leach said.

While copay programs exist and are helpful in terms of lowering healthcare costs, the price of certain drugs remain high.

Circling back to the ACA, both Leach and Buckley said the law is critical when it comes to protecting people with preexisting conditions.

“People with the benefit of good health often don’t realize how easily they could find themselves in that preexisting category,” Leach said, noting how she was otherwise healthy until being diagnosed with RA at age 25.

“That’s why having good health insurance is so important because you really never know what could happen in the future.”

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Writer Alexis Dent spoke about racial disparities facing women of color during pregnancy and delivery. Healthline Town Hall

Alexis Dent, a writer whose work has focused on Black maternal health, also joined the event to discuss racial disparities in healthcare.

Though the ACA has helped protect so many people, many African Americans have fallen through the cracks and lack coverage, as costs for drugs, copays, and insurance premiums remain high.

Some of the most concerning disparities, according to Dent, involve maternal healthcare for Black women.

According to Dent, Black women face maternal mortality rates that are three to four times higher than white women.

Everyone needs evidence-based, empathetic healthcare, she noted.

But improving the ACA alone will not be enough to fix the nation’s racial health disparities.

The racism that exists in our healthcare system is oftentimes implicit, says Dent.

She believes routine and ongoing antiracist trainings are necessary to help healthcare providers fix racial health disparities.

“Having antiracist training for anyone across the complete healthcare industry is really important to fix racial inequities and prevent maternal deaths,” Dent said.

The Affordable Care Act, racial disparities in healthcare, the cost of care, and living with a preexisting condition are the most pressing healthcare issues at stake in the upcoming election.

Politicians, and the legislation they pass, can significantly impact everyone’s access to equal and equitable healthcare. Healthcare industry leaders and advocates say now’s the time to get informed and make a plan to vote.