What did stakeholders have to say about health care policy in 2016? As the year comes to a close, American Health Line's editorial team rounded up the standout quotations of 2016. Which comments made our list? Read below to find out.
"Here's the plain truth. ... Zika and other diseases spread by Aedes aegypti [mosquitos] are really not controllable with current technologies. ... What we anticipate will happen is that this season will calm down within the continental United States. We will see parts of the hemisphere becoming endemic, which means it comes back every year."—CDC Director Thomas Frieden speaking in October at the The Atlantic's CityLab conference in South Florida on the future of Zika in the United States. As of Dec. 7, CDC data showed there had been 4,575 reported cases of Zika infection in the United States, with local transmission reported in Florida and Texas.
"Premiums are going up faster in 2017 than they have in past years."—Cynthia Cox, associate director for the Program for the Study of Health Reform and Private Insurance at Kaiser Family Foundation, on an analysis she led that predicted premiums for health plans sold through the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) exchanges for the 2017 coverage year could see double-digit increases. HHS later shared data that showed premiums for silver-level health plans sold through the federal exchange increased by an average of 25 percent for the 2017 coverage year.
"We will create quality, reliable, affordable health care in a free market where parents can make the health care decisions that they really [want to] make for their families. ... It will be a much better health care at a much less expensive cost."—President-elect Donald Trump during a campaign speech in Pennsylvania prior to his win on Election Day. In the days following the election, Trump reiterated his commitment to repeal the law but expressed support for two popular ACA provisions.
"This idea of repeal and wait two years to replace―that is repeal. ... The uncertainty that gets created for consumers, for issuers, for states by having that is very, very damaging."—HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on reports that Republican lawmakers are considering passing an ACA repeal bill without an immediate replacement measure. Senior Republican congressional aides have said the ACA repeal would happen "very quickly" and likely would include a transition period of up to four years to implement a replacement bill.
"It could be a big step in the right direction, or it could be the next [Sustainable Growth Rate]."—Katherine Baicker, a professor of health economics in Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Department of Health Policy and Management, on CMS' final rule to implement new payment models under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act. While the rule was met with general praise from industry stakeholders, some experts raised concerns that CMS may have offered providers too much flexibility.
"I know solving this problem will not be easy. ... We often struggle to balance reducing our patients' pain with increasing their risk of addiction. But, as clinicians, we have the unique power to help end this epidemic."—U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in a first-of-its-kind letter sent to health care providers across the country urging them to help fight the country's opioid epidemic. Murthy called the epidemic an "urgent health crisis" and cited CDC data that showed between 1999 and 2014, more than 165,000 U.S. residents died from overdoses related to prescription opioids.
"If these kinds of increases took place in the sale of gasoline in the [United States], you'd be paying $30 a gallon. And if that was the case, the federal government or somebody would decide enough is enough."—Scott Knoer, chief pharmacy officer at the Cleveland Clinic, on a hospital-industry-sponsored report that found hospitals' spending on prescription drugs rose by nearly 25 percent annually between fiscal years 2013 and 2015.
"It's no surprise that companies are adapting at different rates to a market where they compete for business on cost and quality rather than by denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions."—HealthCare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan on Aetna's announcement that it would scale back its 2017 ACA exchange business. Several insurers, including Humana and UnitedHealth Group, also cut their exchange plan offerings for the 2017 coverage year, citing financial losses.
"These achievements demonstrate the commitment across many public and private organizations and frontline clinicians to improve the quality of care received by patients across the county."—CMS CMO Patrick Conway on an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality report that found the U.S. hospital-acquired infection rate fell by 21 percent over five years.
"We can make the same strides in the 21st century against health threats like air pollution, gun violence, and obesity that we did in the 20th century against polio and other infectious diseases."—Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on a $300 million donation he made to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to improve public health. The overall goal of the initiative is to improve the United States' world ranking for life expectancy; the World Health Organization currently ranks the United States 31st overall in life expectancy.