U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), a practicing physician and member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), today introduced the "Universal Health Care Choice and Access Act," a comprehensive health care reform plan. U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), who also is a member of the HELP committee, joined Dr. Coburn as an original co-sponsor.
"Americans are tired of out of control medical costs, gatekeepers blocking access to the doctors they want to see, being denied coverage of medically necessary care, and health plans that they don't understand. This bill addresses all of these problems and does so without creating new government programs or bureaucracies. In fact, this bill removes government and insurance bureaucrats from the doctor's office by providing patients with federal tax rebates that will ensure that every American can purchase the health care coverage that best meets their medical needs. Americans who are capable of shopping for their own housing, transportation or clothing also are capable of shopping for their own health care," Dr. Coburn said.
Senator Burr said, "Our health care system needs serious improvements. This legislation makes health care coverage accessible and affordable for all Americans through private insurance coverage, while also promoting prevention and wellness which can improve lives and lower medical costs. I believe this legislation takes a big step toward fixing our health care system."
Dr. Coburn added, "Universal coverage is possible and Americans are right to demand it. We will move closest to this goal when we promote the same innovation and competition in health care that we see in every other American industry. From cars, to televisions, to computers, competition and innovation improve customer service, and help Americans access goods and services at lower prices."
"Government-run, Big Brother' health care plans that some politicians are vowing to revive would drive-up tax rates, strangle our economy and deprive the most vulnerable individuals in society of basic health coverage. The seductive rhetoric behind Big Brother' health care hides the fact that socialized systems stay afloat by rationing care and letting people die before their time. In the United Kingdom, for example, cancer patients sometimes have to wait a year between their diagnosis and first chemotherapy treatment. That approach to health care is unconscionable," Dr. Coburn said. (Source: http://www.galen.org/healthabroad.asp?docID=950)
"The American people deserve an honest debate about specific ideas and solutions, not empty campaign rhetoric and slogans. What we are doing isn't working. Health care costs are rising three times faster than the rate of inflation with no corresponding rise in quality. One of out of every four health dollars spent in this country does nothing to help patients get well because it is wasted on defensive medicine, unnecessary paperwork or outright fraud. Meanwhile, Washington is facing the inconvenient truth that our health care system will be overwhelmed by the demographic tsunami of retiring baby boomers if Congress doesn't act quickly to fix this system. Doing nothing to reform our health care system will not only compromise the health of millions of Americans; it will cause tax rates to double, stagnate our economy and severely undermine our ability to compete in a global market," Dr. Coburn said.
Key provisions of the "Universal Health Care Choice and Access Act" include:
Promoting prevention. The legislation will reform our rudderless and wasteful federal prevention programs and demand results and accountability. Five preventable chronic diseases - heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes - cause two-thirds of American deaths. Seventy five percent of total health expenditures are spent to treat these largely preventable chronic diseases. A sound prevention strategy will save countless lives and billions of dollars.
MediChoice tax rebates that will shift tax breaks away from businesses to individuals. Giving Americans a rebate check ($2,000 for individuals and $5,000 for families) to buy their own insurance will foster competition, improve quality and drive down prices. This provision will help put individuals back in charge of the health care, and help restore the doctor-patient relationship that has been severed by third-party government and health insurance bureaucrats.
Creation of a national market for health insurance. The bill would give Americans the right to shop for health insurance anywhere in America. Patients should not be forced to be pay for outrageously expensive health plans in states like New Jersey when they can save thousands by buying plans from companies in other states.
Creating transparency of health care costs and services. This Act requires hospitals and providers receiving reimbursements from Medicare to disclose their estimated and actual charges for all patients as well as the rates they are reimbursed through Medicare and Medicaid. This provision could allow patients to "Google" their doctor and comparison-shop for health care the way that they do for cars, computers, or other products and services.
Securing Medicare's future by increasing choice and encouraging savings. The bill retains existing benefits but encourages true competition among private plans to hold down costs, a model already is working in Medicare's prescription drug benefit. The plan would give Medicare recipients similar health care options available to Members of Congress and employees of Fortune 500 companies.
Keeping Medicaid on mission. The bill liberates the poor from substandard government care and offers states the option to provide their Medicaid beneficiaries the kind of health care coverage that wealthier Americans enjoy. The bill creates incentives for states to achieve private universal coverage for their population. The bill offers states the freedom to design the programs that serve their beneficiaries with the best care instead of the current, one-size-fits-all straitjacket.
*** Other key provisions in the bill would provide more health care choices to veterans and American Indians, improve the accuracy of medical records, and limit frivolous lawsuit by solving disputes through mediation and impartial medical experts.