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This last week President Barack Obama hosted a forum on health care at the White House. The forum included Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, representatives from the health care industry including various medical specialties, hospitals, doctors, nurses and technicians, the health insurance industry, the business community and most importantly patients, the health care consumers who must be the focus of this process. I am encouraged by the fact that so many individuals representing such diverse interests were able to come together to discuss the goal of providing every American with more and better health insurance choices. It is going to take this kind of continued cooperation to truly advance meaningful health care reform.
While we can all agree that our current health care system is flawed there are many different ideas about how to fix it. I believe that any successful reform will include several key components such as health insurance tax credits for individuals and families. We must also allow individuals the option to purchase health care across state lines, helping create a national market for health insurance by having consumers, not bureaucrats, find the coverage which best suits their needs.
Medical liability reform should also be a part of any health care overhaul. Discouraging the practice of defensive medicine, the ordering of unnecessary tests and procedures, will save billions of dollars.
Another important piece of any health care reform package is the creation of Association Health Plans, known as AHPs. AHPs are an effective mechanism to extend coverage among the working uninsured by reducing the barriers that small employers currently face in providing coverage for their employees. AHPs are intended to increase incentives for employers to band together to purchase insurance coverage at lower rates for their employees. The way to revitalize our struggling American economy is by ensuring the stability of America’s small businesses and reducing the burden of increasing health care costs is a big part of that.
Additionally, real health care reform must also encourage the establishment of a nationwide health information technology network, including electronic medical records and e-prescriptions. Health information technology can reduce medical errors, save time, money and most importantly, save lives.
The most important principles in health care reform are holding down costs and preserving consumer choices. We already spend far more per person than any other country in the world. Reform must mean using the health care dollars we now spend in a smarter, more effective way. Most important of all we should be preserving and enhancing the ability of people to choose the plans that are tailored to their needs and the doctors that they trust to guide them.
Now is the time for action. It is my hope that the President’s recent health care forum will launch a true health care debate and begin a serious discussion in Congress about meaningful health care reform. I look forward to working with others in Congress to advance these principles and enacting legislation that makes health care more affordable and more accessible for all Americans.