A group seeking to lead a broad national effort by consumers to make health care more affordable and available has formed in Washington, contending that even with more widespread insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, many people cannot obtain the care they need.
Partners for Better Care claims it already represents 10 million patients through affiliations with other advocacy groups such as AIDS United, the Parkinson’s Action Network and United Cerebral Palsy. The organization also is hoping to enlist larger health care advocacy groups.
The group plans to “develop a campaign that’s wide in scope to address these humongous needs,” said Mary Richards, its executive director. Chief among those may be pushing back against cost-shifting by insurance companies to patients, who find themselves increasingly burdened by co-payments, higher deductibles and other costs for services that insurance companies decline to cover. The group’s first move will be a “patient charter” centered around availability, affordability and transparency in health care delivery.
One member is Elizabeth Page, 51, who has multiple sclerosis. The annual cost of her medications was about $8,000 to $9,000 when she was diagnosed in 1995. Today the same drugs cost about $67,000. Much of that cost is born by her insurance coverage, she said, but her deductible has risen to $3,800 each year. People with other diseases, especially cancer, are paying even more annually in out-of-pocket costs and some have been forced into bankruptcy.
“There are 13 disease-modifying therapies today for multiple sclerosis,” Page said. “But not all of them are [covered by insurance available] on each state’s exchange or on the federal exchange.”
Funding for the group comes from Novo Nordisk, the Danish company known best for its diabetes care products. But Richards said that doesn’t mean the coalition will be advocating for drug or other medical product companies in their frequent battles with insurance companies. Novo Nordisk has no role in setting coalition policy, she said.