Affordable and Accessible Healthcare for All
Our healthcare system is broken and it needs to be fixed. People across the country are in desperate need of serious reforms that better serve them and their families. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took an important step forward by insuring close to 20 million Americans, many issues—such as escalating costs on individuals and small businesses, and high copayments and deductibles—remain. With 27 million Americans still uninsured today, Tulsi is committed to working to ensure that affordable healthcare is available to all Americans. So far, every GOP version of healthcare reforms intended to replace the Affordable Care Act only make the problems worse, threatening to slash billions from Medicaid, strip away essential health benefits like maternity care, substance abuse treatment, and mental health services, expand a crippling age tax on our kūpuna, eliminate healthcare tax credits for over 7 million veterans, and break the bank for those with pre-existing conditions.
We need real healthcare reform that brings down costs, increases access to quality care, and ensures basic health services are available to all Americans. As a cosponsor of H.R.676, the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act, Tulsi Gabbard is working towards a system that will provide universal healthcare to all Americans—a standard met by nearly every other major industrialized country in the world. We need a system that puts people first, ahead of the profits of insurance and pharmaceutical companies. The Medicare for All Act is an important step forward.
Protecting Medicare and Medicaid
Medicare and Medicaid help nearly 130 million Americans, including close to 570,000 people in Hawaiʻi, access quality healthcare. Tulsi is continuing to work to increase Medicare reimbursement rates to help expand health care access and retain physicians in our rural communities. She has cosponsored legislation like the Medicare Premium Fairness Act to prevent premium and deductible increases for those enrolled in Medicare, and the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act to help ensure those who are most in need continue to have access to quality and affordable care.
Fighting for the Healthcare Veterans Deserve
While veterans have been experiencing delays and obstacles in receiving VA healthcare for decades, in 2014, our country's failure to fulfill its promise to our veterans was starkly exposed. At the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), veterans faced wait times of 90 days or more to see a doctor. Hawaiʻi veterans experienced the worst wait times in the country, averaging 145 days—almost five months—just to see a primary care physician for the first time. As the VA crises unfolded, Tulsi introduced a bill called the Access to Care and Treatment Now for Veterans Act to allow veterans not getting timely healthcare from the VA to get care from non-VA medical providers. This policy was ultimately included in the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act that became law at the end of 2014. Tulsi is continuing to fight for our veterans, including working to eliminate the unacceptable wait times veterans still face today.
Increasing Healthcare Access in Rural and Underserved Communities
People from every island deserve access to the highest quality of health care. In visits to Community Health Centers and Critical Access Hospitals throughout the state, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has seen firsthand the challenges brought on by remote locations, lack of funding, and staff shortages. She is working to help solve these challenges and create greater access to care in our rural and underserved communities, and has cosponsored legislation like the bipartisan CONNECT for Health Act to remove Medicare barriers to tele-health and remote patient monitoring services. She also passed an amendment in the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act to provide military retirees living more than 100 miles from a military treatment facility the option to re-enroll in TRICARE Prime. This amendment successfully reversed a 2013 policy that eliminated this access and created barriers for our veterans.
Restoring the Federal Healthcare Promised to COFA Migrants
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is also working to restore federal funding for health care that was promised to Compacts of Free Association (COFA) migrants. In 1996, Congress passed a law that made migrants from Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands ineligible for federal Medicaid dollars. Without federal dollars, Hawai‘i has borne the cost of care for COFA migrants, which has strained our state’s resources. Each year, Hawai‘i spends an estimated $30 to $40 million to provide health care to these families. Tulsi introduced the Restore Medicaid to Compact of Free Association Migrants Act to right this wrong, require the federal government to fulfill its obligations, honor our COFA, and share the cost of providing health care.
Addressing the Opioid Epidemic
2.1 million people suffer from dependency and addiction to prescription opioid drugs in the United States. 80% of the world's pain pills are consumed in the U.S., even though we only have 5% of the world's population. This is an epidemic that reaches every corner of our nation. Tulsi has cosponsored legislation like the STOP OD Act (H.R.664) to help state and local governments raise awareness of the dangers of opioids like fentanyl, oxycodone and heroin, expand educational efforts to prevent opiate abuse and promote treatment and prevention. She also voted to pass a series of bipartisan measures in the 114th Congress to address some of the widespread problems that have caused and perpetuated the national opioid crisis, including the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (S.524) signed into law in July 2016, and has continued to call for drug companies perpetuating the crisis to be held accountable.
More on Affordable and Accessible Healthcare for All
Honolulu, HI—Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) released the statement below following a joint investigation by The Washington Post and 60 Minutes into the pharmaceutical industry’s role in proliferating the opioid epidemic in the United States:
"As we work hard for real reforms to our broken healthcare system, it's important that we maximize the opportunity for every American to get affordable healthcare under available programs.
"Last week, I sent a letter with more than 220 of my fellow colleagues to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi expressing concern for the impending cuts to