How Are You Feeling, Oakland County?
OP - The Oakland Press originally published December 12, 2019
When I listen to people in every part of Oakland County, more than anything I hear concerns about people struggling to afford healthcare and prescription drugs. That’s why I’m proposing the “Meisner Plan” to make healthcare and prescription drugs more affordable and accessible in Oakland County.
According to the League for Public Policy, Oakland County has 71,000 uninsured residents, including children, and we likely also have hundreds of thousands of underinsured residents suffering from over-priced prescription drugs, high deductibles, and junk coverage. The situation would become much worse if the election next year resulted in the elimination of the Affordable Care Act.
The “Meisner Plan for Oakland County’s Health, Wellness and Happiness” is an anchor of my platform as a candidate for Oakland County Executive in 2020, when voters will make their voices heard in electing an Executive. Our plan will tackle the problem of expensive and inaccessible prescription drugs by negotiating directly with the pharmaceutical companies to get greater savings through bulk purchasing for any County resident who wants to participate. With over 1.2 million people in our County, many who take prescription drugs, we can work together to lower our costs and increase access to life-saving medicine. What’s more, we have great private and nonprofit expertise in lowering prescription drug costs right here in Oakland County that we will leverage.
The next element of my plan is making healthcare more affordable and accessible for Oakland County residents. Building on the strength of the Oakland County Health Department, we will provide primary health care for our uninsured and underinsured residents through a public-private partnership with local health providers, hospitals and medical schools. This care will be provided at a regional network of Oakland County Health and Wellness Centers located strategically across Oakland County to help our families who are sick get the care that they need and deserve in the right treatment setting, instead of in hospital emergency rooms. This will mean healthcare that is more affordable and accessible for all. By building a countywide network of Oakland County Health and Wellness Centers, we can also make sure that every Oakland County resident receives the care they need close to home. Federal dollars are available to support this network, and these are dollars we have left on the table for no good reason. That must and will change with this plan.
As I learned from the experience of my father who had mental illness, many times there is a clear connection between physical and mental health. That’s why my plan calls for bringing together both disciplines under one roof, allowing for a holistic approach to treating the whole person. This achievement will make the health of our residents the priority it should be, while placing Oakland County at the national forefront of game-changing healthcare policy. It will also help fight the unfair and crushing stigma that holds too many people back from getting the care they need. The concept with the Oakland County Health and Wellness Centers in my plan is not only to serve our uninsured and underinsured residents, but also making healthcare and prescription drugs more affordable and accessible for all. We can achieve measurable improvements in reducing healthcare costs for all.
The budget for this network will come from a range of sources, including county, state and federal government, the private sector, foundations and individuals. The lion’s share of funding will come from federal supports for Community Health Centers, including the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Medicaid, Federal Section 330 Grant Funds which specifically target funding at uninsured and underinsured populations, and the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF). Specific three-year budgets for this strategy are in process to make sure that this effort maintains Oakland County’s commitment to budget discipline, and will be released on our website in the coming months.
Oakland County, how are you feeling, and what are you prepared to do about it? If your healthcare and prescription drugs are too expensive and inaccessible, please join the conversation at www.voteandymeisner.com.
Andy Meisner is the Oakland County Treasurer and candidate for Oakland County Executive. He lives in Huntington Woods with his wife and two sons.