A Five-Point Prescription to Heal our Medical System

Dec 17, 2008
Health Care

Even if you’ve been blessed enough to avoid serious illness or injury, you can be proud that the U.S. health care system is the most advanced in the world.  We have doctors, some right here in Eastern Washington, capable of providing miracle cures and the best possible care.  But every where I go in Eastern Washington, I hear concerns about the shortage of doctors, nurses and medical technicians, not to mention the high cost of health insurance and the high cost of medical care itself.

As your representative in Congress, I want you to know that increasing access to quality and affordable health care is one of my top priorities.  America can have a health care system that is characterized by better prevention, coordinated care, electronic health records, cutting-edge treatments — and lower costs.  I believe by focusing on access, affordability, quality, accountability and choice, we can offer an alternative to a government-run, one-size-fits-all health care system for America. 

That’s why I recently introduced a five-point plan that I believe will address the challenges facing our health care system.  The first aspect of the plan is improving access to health care in preventive, emergency and rehabilitative settings in rural and urban areas.  This means finding a long-term solution that will accurately reimburse physicians for care they provide to Medicare beneficiaries and veterans as well as advancing critical health care training programs to retain health care professionals especially in the rural areas across Eastern Washington.

Next, we need to increase the affordability of health care to ensure the cost of health care is within the reach of families and individuals.  We can do this by providing tax credits to help people buy and pay for health insurance and by allowing Association Health Plans so businesses can band together to purchase health insurance that is more affordable and that will give people more continuity of coverage.  To reduce the lawsuits that are driving up the cost of health care, we also need strong medical liability reform.  I’ve heard from Eastern Washington doctors who are retiring early or in at least one case, moving their practices out of the country, to escape the high cost of medical malpractice insurance. 

I also believe we need to focus on quality to emphasize safe and effective health care service with measurable results.  Health information technology, like electronic medical records and personal health records, can save lives and provide cost efficiency through decreased paperwork, less duplication, and streamlined reporting.

We need accountability that holds ourselves, our dollars and our programs responsible for our health care.  I believe the federal government, the states and health insurers should build new incentives into health plans to encourage wellness and prevention and to provide incentives for people to make smart choices involving their health, health care  and health coverage.

Finally, increasing choice will allow consumers to pick the best health care plan and options to meet their individual and family needs.  This means expanding Health Savings Accounts, making health insurance portable from job to job and from state to state and allowing people to cross state lines to purchase health insurance.  There is no reason why we in Eastern Washington can’t go to Idaho (and vice-versa) to buy health insurance.

Some in our country believe the government can solve America’s health care problems by spending more money and growing the role of the federal government.  I couldn’t disagree more.  If you believe government health care is the answer, look to our neighbors to the north. Last year, more than 800,000 Canadians were waiting for health procedures and the average waiting time to see a primary care doctor is nearly 18-weeks! Americans value choice and control over their health care decisions and greater government involvement in our health sector would lead to higher costs, fewer medical discoveries and treatments, delays in access to care, and excessive and expensive increase in paperwork and bureaucracy.

I believe the answers are found across America and Eastern Washington has led the way.  INHS has one of the most robust electronic medical record systems in the country; the Heart Institute features a premier cardiac program; Project Access’ efforts to provide health care to low income citizens of Spokane has garnered national attention; and Spokane’s Institute for Systems Medicine’s research benefits patients across Eastern Washington and the world. 

The answers to our health care challenges are found by allowing doctors and nurses, families and individuals to do what is best for them.

–By Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers

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