By Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) - 07/16/09 04:41 PM EDT
The Patients’ Choice Act avoids a one-size-fits-all, government-run program. We need to give people the means to purchase their own health insurance that fits their needs and the needs of their families. It should be portable so that a plan can stay with them through job and life changes, allowing people to access care when they need it.
Our bill would also create State Based Health Insurance Exchanges, which would be a voluntary, one-stop marketplace of insurance plans. These state exchanges — which would be open to all Americans — would offer a broad range of plans but all would be required to have the same standard benefits as those enjoyed by members of Congress. Through this innovative reform, no individual could be turned down based on his or her age or health. This is because insurers who “cherry pick” healthy patients would be penalized, and those that cover patients with pre-existing conditions and emphasize prevention and wellness would be rewarded.
The Patients’ Choice Act would also improve the quality and access to care for Medicaid patients. Under our current system, about 40 percent of doctors and hospitals do not accept Medicaid patients because payments are so low. This means that needy moms and kids, some of the most vulnerable members of our society, may have health coverage, but do not have good access to healthcare. Our bill would remove the stigma from Medicaid recipients by giving them resources in addition to the universal tax credit to purchase the health coverage and care they need from any provider. We also provide simple new opportunities for automatic enrollment to help people who need coverage.
What sets our bill apart are the initiatives that we put in place to create a healthcare program that is sustainable for future generations. Our current healthcare system triggers when people get sick or need care. This isn’t healthcare; this is sick care. In order to transform the way we approach our individual health decisions as well as the system overall, we need to move to a system that promotes wellness, prevention and chronic disease management.
The United States currently spends twice as much on healthcare per person than other industrialized nations, yet we are not twice as healthy. The solution is not for the federal government to spend and tax Americans more; the answer is to get more value for our healthcare dollar through more choices. And this is exactly what the Patients’ Choice Act would accomplish.
Burr and Coburn are members of theSenate Health, Education, Labor andPensions (HELP) Committee.