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Affordable care should be the goal

What about the cost of premiums and co-pays?

In Annapolis, I recently spoke to Maryland legislators about the uncertainty their citizens feel concerning the government's role in health care and how our citizens would like to address these challenges.

Specifically, we discussed the cost of chronic disease on families and our health care system. About 70 percent of health care spending is linked to patients with three or more chronic conditions, which account for 86 percent of all health care spending in the United States. The impact of chronic disease cannot be overstated as the projected total cost of chronic disease from 2016-2030 amounts to $42 trillion nationwide, and a staggering 1.1 million American lives could be saved annually through better preventive care and chronic disease treatment.

Maryland is doing its part to cure chronic disease. It's the home to 3,500 clinical trials of new medications in collaboration with Maryland's clinical research centers, university medical schools and hospitals. Over half these trials are targeting or have targeted the nation's most debilitating chronic diseases including asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, mental illnesses and stroke.

However, while we are developing cures it's clear that Marylanders' access to those life-saving medicines is threatened by the lack of affordable health insurance.

In the recent Morning Consult Survey of 341 registered Maryland voters we found several interesting points:

•Nearly 9 in 10 want elected officials to address insurance premium increases, as well as lower co-pays and deductibles for medical and physician care.

•76 percent say costs and deductibles have increased or stayed the same in the past year.

•More than half of Marylanders (53 percent) believe that health care coverage is on the wrong track.

Additionally, the survey demonstrated that affordability of care ranked as the highest health care concern with responders citing increases in premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Marylanders in the survey requested the following policy priorities:

•Holding health insurance companies accountable for inappropriate denials of care (65 percent).

•Managing health insurance premium increases (59 percent).

•Lowering co-pays and deductibles for medical and physician care (58 percent).

•Lowering co-pays and deductibles for prescription drugs (57 percent).

It's clear Marylanders are deeply concerned about health care services affordability and the cost of care and want lawmakers to focus on lowering co-pays and deductibles for medical and physician care and keeping premiums down. By making insurance cost and accessibility to care a priority, we can drive down overall health care costs and make our citizens healthier.

Kenneth Thorpe, Atlanta, Ga.

The writer is health policy and management chairman at Emory University.

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