After years of steady progress, we are now at risk of losing ground in building the American health care system we deserve.

Reports emerging from the Senate indicate that the discussion is focused on how fast to roll back expansion of coverage rather than how to take the next steps forward and build on the progress we’ve made to date. So far, little debate seems to be focused on policies that help our nation continue to transition from a “sick care” system to a better organized focus on prevention and helping people live healthier lives.

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We need to pause and ask policymakers to answer the most fundamental question: What does progress on health care look like for the people in America? Three simple, yet important, measures exist – and any change will be judged by history by its impact on access, affordability and outcomes.

First, we need to cover more people, not fewer people. Any proposed approach to health care reform must cover more people than the number who have access to high-quality health care today. Over the last few years, 20 million uninsured people gained access to health care coverage, and the number of uninsured people dropped to record lows.

Yet about 28 million people remain without health care coverage. While this represents progress, today we still have an unacceptable number of people without access to health care coverage.

Reasonable people can debate how we progress to a zero number of uninsured people, how generous the most basic coverage needs to be, and how we pay for it. Let’s be clear: This isn’t a partisan goal. Both parties have ideas on how we can expand health coverage effectively using a blend of public and private solutions. Providing targeted subsidies for people to purchase insurance on the exchanges and expanding Medicaid have, for the most part, been efficient and effective. Targeting subsidies in a better way is certainly possible and we should explore that. Any bill that increases the number of uninsured – and the Congressional Budget Office estimated the House bill would leave 23 million more Americans without insurance – is unacceptable.

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