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Putting the "Care" in Health Care Policy

Right now, the latest health care buzzword, “patient-centered care,” has people talking about ways to provide better quality care to patients. While patient-centered care focuses on one part of the care continuum, creating a truly patient-centered system requires a renewed focus for every health care decision—including policy decisions.

Patient-centered health policies can improve outcomes and promote a more sustainable health care system. One approach to patient-centered public policies recognizes that upfront investments in health care can mean significant savings for patients and the entire health system in the long run. Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program, provides a fantastic example of how policy can provide access to quality health care, while realizing savings throughout the health care system. 

By improving patient access to vital medicines, Medicare Part D helps keep patients healthier and out of the hospital. This translates to more time at home with their families and loved ones, and fewer costs associated with those additional hospital visits. The program also allows seniors to choose from a variety of plans to meet their specific lifestyle and health needs. Today, 90% of beneficiaries feel satisfied with their prescription drug coverage. Furthermore, the program remains over 40% under budget, a savings of over $334 billion!

Commitment to patient-centered health policy improves patient outcomes, while smoothing out costs across the system. When policymakers treat patients as individuals with specific treatment needs, and appropriately weigh short-term costs against long-term goals, the entire system works better for everyone.