In speaking with my constituents, and from my experience working with health care professionals and community health partners, I understand the burdens placed on families lacking health coverage. The uninsured receive less preventive care, are diagnosed with disease much later and receive less follow up care. This issue impacts employers, taxpayers and our overall health care system. There is a broad commitment to making coverage and services more affordable for individuals, families and businesses, but there are some differing views on how to best accomplish that goal.
Some want to make program promises now and worry about where the funding will come from much later. This is not responsible. So while plans seeking to extend coverage are based on good intentions, they lack sufficient and reliable funding sources, and more importantly, they lack any measure to contain rising health costs.
The existing Adult Basic program illustrates the difficulty of providing funding to match the promised level of coverage. 80,000 Pennsylvanian’s are currently on a waiting list because there is not enough money to pay benefits beyond the 53,000 currently covered through the program.
If we do not control rising health care costs, there will never be enough money to fund extended coverage. It is important to note that there are some important new laws aimed at improving health care accessibility. Last year, we passed a law intended to prevent patients from picking up serious infections during treatment, because statistics have shown that health care-acquired infections contribute greatly to overall health care costs in the Commonwealth. We also passed a law to give nurses more responsibilities so doctors can spend more time providing direct patient care. We are continuing to develop means of using technology to reduce preventable medical errors, which are an enormous cost item in health care. These and other health care reform options are intended to reduce health care costs.
There are other important steps that need to be taken. I am working on two pieces of legislation – one that would allow small businesses to band together to purchase health insurance and one that would encourage health insurers to provide discounts to employers who implement workplace wellness programs. Both bills would lower costs for employers so they can afford to offer health coverage for their employees.
Health care reform is not an exercise in creating sound bites. It is an exercise in creating sound policy. A plan that will work for Pennsylvania must be affordable. We also need to make sure it doesn’t result in the unintended consequence of having employers discontinue health insurance for employees they currently cover.
Contact: Brian Grove