20 August 2008

Broken Health Care - Noriega Offers Fix!

OK, I'm violating one of my cardinal rules about posting something published elsewhere. But, since it was sent to me by the Noriega campaign, and because I think it should be read by as many people as possible, I'm doing it. So, report me to the administrator of this blog--right!

Rick Noriega: How to repair broken health care system
12:00 AM CDT on Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rick Noriega, a Democrat who has represented his Houston district in the Texas House since 1999, is running for the U.S. Senate. He may be contacted through info@ricknoriega.com.

Many issues deserve the attention of our elected officials, but few directly affect the lives of Texans like health care. We must all unite around the goal of accessible, affordable health care for every Texas family. Families in this state are facing a health care crisis because Washington isn't looking out for them. Sen. John Cornyn recently said he thinks Texas is a national model for an effective health care system. However, our state has the nation's highest rate of individuals without health insurance. We can and must do better.

My health plan will protect Texas children, lower costs to employers and individuals, and reform the inefficient, failing status quo.

In Texas, over 20 percent of children are not covered by health insurance. But while Texas has the highest number of uninsured children in the country, Mr. Cornyn voted six times against expanding health insurance coverage for Texas kids.

My health care plan reflects my long-time advocacy of expanding coverage to children. As a state representative, I helped increase coverage to more than 500,000 children, sponsored legislation that eliminated bureaucratic 90-day waiting lists, and led efforts to allow families to deduct child care costs while the state determined their eligibility status.

Our current approach is unacceptable – every child should be able to go to the doctor whenever needed. That's why my plan calls for an expansion of the children's health insurance program to provide coverage for all Texas children. My plan also will improve health security and options for all Texans. According to analysis of census data by Families USA, 45 percent of state residents are uninsured for at least part of the year.

That's why I've proposed creating an "insurance connector" to link Texans with insurance plans that are suitable for their needs. The federal government would negotiate with private insurers to provide options for all Americans. Texans who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, but still can't afford health insurance, would receive a discount based on a sliding income scale. This innovation will use the strengths of the competitive marketplace to cut costs and improve access.

My proposal also focuses on affordability. We cannot continue to allow health insurance companies to inflate premiums and reap unprecedented profits. Between 2000 and 2006, family health premiums increased by nearly 80 percent. I will push for wider adoption of electronic medical records to cut down on inefficiency and an increased emphasis on preventive health efforts. My plan also helps small businesses deal with the costs of health care, through targeted tax credits to incentivize coverage.

Finally, we need to build transparency and accountability into our currently broken and needlessly complex system by giving Texans more information about physician ratings and how their premiums and health benefit expenses are calculated.

My opponent thinks tort reform is the answer to our health care woes. Indeed, his campaign specifically claimed that Proposition 12 has succeeded in providing health care services in under-served areas and improving access in others. But that claim simply isn't supported by the facts. Doctors moving to Texas because of lower insurance rates have overwhelmingly chosen urban areas, not rural or under-served areas, a fact that undermines one of the strongest arguments for Proposition 12 – expansion of access. According to Texas Watch, under-served areas remain under-served.

Texans deserve a health care system that works for them – not for Big Insurance and the Washington lobbyists. Texans deserve real health care security for their families, lowered costs for employers, and more transparency and accountability than our current system provides.
Rick Noriega, a Democrat who has represented his Houston district in the Texas House since 1999, is running for the U.S. Senate. He may be contacted through; info@ricknoriega.com

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