Issue Position: Creating a 21st Century Health Care System
The heightened levels of partisanship dominating the current Congress seem to have prevented the politicians from devoting serious focus on the issue most Coloradans think is overdue for meaningful reform - health care. Everywhere Bob travels in Colorado, the topic comes up and people want commonsense solutions.
In a nation like ours, no American should be without access to health care coverage. In finding solutions, Coloradans, on a bipartisan basis, have shared with Bob their preference for solutions based on freedom, not narrow vision; on principles of consumer choice, not limited options; on convenience, not complicated government instruction manuals; and, Coloradans want to make their own choices, not have a government worker or an insurance agent interfering in their relationship with their doctor - a doctor they chose for themselves. These are the elements of an American-style health care system that Bob wants to help the country develop.
Know the Difference:
-Supports Small Business Health Plans. (H.R. 2563, RC Vote #328: August 2, 2001; H.R. 2563, RC Vote #332: August 2, 2001; H.R. 2990, RC Vote #485: October, 6, 1999)
-Supports lawsuit reform to help reduce the cost of health care. (H.R. 4600, RC Vote #421, 9/26/02)
-Supports competing with other countries for market prices on prescription drugs. (H.R. 2330, CQ Vote #216: July 11, 2001; H.R. 2330, CQ Vote #217: July 11, 2001.)
-Supports accelerated phase-in of the 100% deduction for health care and long-term care insurance. (HR 2488, RC Vote #333, 7/22/99)
-Supports extending unemployment benefits to displaced workers and offering a temporary 60% refundable tax credit for unemployed workers to buy health insurance. (HR 3529, RC Vote #509, 12/20/01)
-Supports appropriating more Medicaid funds to be used at the states' discretion.
-Opposes Small Business Health Plans. (H.R. 2990, RC Vote #485, 10/6/99; H.R. 2563, RC Vote #328, 8/2/01; H.R. 2563, RC Vote #332, 8/2/01; H.R. 660, RC Vote #290, 6/19/03; H.R. 660, RC Vote #296, 6/19/03; H.Res. 638, RC Vote #157, 5/12/04; H.Res. 638, RC Vote #158, 5/12/04; H.R 4281, RC Vote #174, 5/13/04; H.R. 525, RC Vote #426, 7/26/05)
-Opposes lawsuit reform to help reduce the cost of health care. (H.R. 4600, RC Vote #421, 9/26/02)
-Opposes competing with other countries for market prices on prescription drugs. (H.R. 2330, CQ Vote #216: July 11, 2001; H.R. 2330, CQ Vote #217: July 11, 2001.)
-Opposes accelerating phase-in of the 100% deduction for health care and long-term care insurance. (HR 2488, RC Vote #333, 7/22/99)
-Opposes extending unemployment benefits to displaced workers and offering a temporary 60% refundable tax credit for unemployed workers to buy health insurance. (HR 3529, RC Vote #509, 12/20/01)
-Opposes appropriating more Medicaid funds to be used at the states' discretion. (HR 2, RC Vote #225, 5/23/03)
Bob Schaffer's Vision for Improving Health Care:
Bob has made several policy presentations to citizen groups and civic organizations and has conducted working meetings throughout Colorado over the past year on the topic of health care. Following are some of the ideas Bob has proposed on the campaign trail:
Cover all Americans. As a starting premise, Congress must dedicate itself to the notion that it is possible to cover 100% of Americans with a healthier, convenient and affordable health system.
Provide universal access. Bob supports universal access to affordable health insurance. Shifting ownership of health coverage from government and employers to individuals will enhance choice, promote proactive, preventative health care and save money.
Shift to personal "freedom-based" healthcare. Bob supports the use of refundable tax credits to purchase coverage. Health coverage should be a function of personal ownership, not an exclusive function of an employer's benefit plan.
Give Americans more options and more power. Individuals should be empowered to buy insurance offered by any provider in any state and carry it with them through moves and job changes. The competition among hundreds of millions of Americans will force state politicians to rethink expensive state laws that drive up the cost of insurance. Moreover, insurance companies will have to diversify coverage targeting varying customer needs at competitive prices.
Unleash a revolution in healthcare technology. Better machines, medical tools, drugs, research, practices, techniques and scientific breakthroughs will go a long way to improving the quality of life for millions of Americans (and people throughout the world). Congress needs to get the bureaucracy out of the way and even provide more funding to ignite the most promising ambitions in healthcare research and development.
Stanch lawsuit abuse. Too many health care dollars are lost to frivolous lawsuits and outrageous damage awards that drive other expensive settlements. The result is billions spent on defensive medicine, high medical-malpractice insurance premiums and limited access for certain patients. Reasonable limits must be placed on the open-ended lawsuit trends that have seemed to resemble a medical-legal lottery instead of legitimate justice.
Establish specialized health courts. To expediate legal conflicts affecting the delivery of health care services, and to control costs associated with lawsuit abuse, Congress should explore setting up specialized health courts to adjudicate meritorious cases and protect patients while weeding out frivolous litigation.
Demand price and quality transparency. Every patient and health care purchaser should be able to easily find out who provides what medical service the cheapest and at the highest quality. The quicker government and providers can invent such a marketplace, the sooner we'll see prices coming down and quality going up.
Loosen health savings accounts. HSAs, which were a part of the Medicare reforms of 2003, were a giant step toward freedom-based, personalized health care. HSAs are succeeding in distinguishing smaller, routine health expenditures from catastrophic events. Bob supports expanding the use of HSAs.
Give states more Medicaid flexibility. The one-size-fits-all mentality of Washington's current politicians doesn't fit any state well, especially when it comes to Medicaid. Bob supports giving states maximum flexibility to tailor Medicaid programs to the local needs of their own constituencies. States should be freer to innovate. Furthermore, a refundable tax-credit option will allow more Medicaid recipients to obtain healthcare options in the market.
Use surplus welfare funds on children's health. Thanks to Republican-led welfare reform efforts of the 1990s, states have been saving billions of unspent welfare funds. Bob believes the Congress should provide incentives and policy guidance directing these windfalls to child-health programs targeted to low-income households. Colorado, for example, has an estimated $136 million in unspent federal welfare funds being held in reserves.
Ease Medicare toward a competitive model. Those on Medicare should be able to keep their benefits at their option. It's time for Congress to take seriously the bold recommendations of a 1990s bipartisan commission which suggested scrapping Medicare price controls and moving toward a benefits plan that looks like the federal government's own employee health care system. Why not give retirees the cash Medicare would spend on them annually (adjusted for inflation and income) and allow them to select coverage from a menu of providers - all competing for their business? This is a big idea and would naturally need to start out slowly, perhaps with a few demonstration projects before going too far, too fast.
Medicare has got to pay its bills. Too many doctors tell Bob they're not willing to take anymore Medicare patients due to payment delays, short payments and headaches dealing with the bureaucracy. The Medicare physician payment formula is clearly broken.
Protect doctors and hospitals from unfunded mandates. As proposals emerge to reform managed care, Medicare and Medicaid, Bob believes Congress should not increase the regulatory burden and pass unfunded mandates onto health care providers. Unfunded mandates are counterproductive and result in unnecessary costs being passed alont to patients.
Maintain the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Funding increases for SCHIP should be predicated upon reliable federal income streams - not, as has been proposed by Democrats, on tobacco revenues which are unstable at best. SCHIP should be maintained as a program for children, not adults. Income-eligibility guidelines should be established before Congress plays a larger role in funding the program. Otherwise, states with low income guidelines will be subsidizing states offering more generous SCHIP benefits. SCHIP should not be allowed to supplant private health insurance.
Reform the Food and Drug Administration. It costs about $1 billion for a prescription drug to reach the marketplace these days. While we must not disregard the need for rigorous safety requirements, new technologies and real pressure from Congress can move the FDA from an antiquated bureaucratic organization to one that helps lead America's health care revolution.
Pursue other strategies to provide universal access to healthcare. Bob supports more strategies to encourage a sustainable American health care system - some may be added to this list at a later date. If you have further ideas on how to improve health care, please share them with Bob's campaign.
Bob Schaffer's Record on Improving Health Care:
* Bob worked to reduce the cost of prescription drugs by voting to allow the importing of safe prescription drugs at more competitive prices. (H.R. 2330, CQ Vote #216: July 11, 2001; H.R. 2330, CQ Vote #217: July 11, 2001.)
* Bob voted to implement small-business health plans, which allow small businesses to reduce health care costs by banning together and purchasing health care insurance in a similar manner to larger businesses. (H.R. 2563, RC Vote #328: August 2, 2001; H.R. 2563, RC Vote #332: August 2, 2001; H.R. 2990, RC Vote #485: October, 6, 1999)
* Bob cosponsored legislation to allow any taxpayer a deduction for amounts paid for health insurance premiums and un-reimbursed prescription drug expenses. This would help level the playing field for individuals obtaining health care outside of their employer. (H.R. 383, Cosponsored 1/31/01)
* Bob supported tort reform efforts to stop frivolous lawsuits and excessive damages, which cause doctors to practice defensive medicine and drives up the cost of health care. (H.R. 4600, RC Vote #421, 9/26/02)
* Bob supported the State Children's Health Insurance Program to help provide insurance coverage to low-income children. (H.R. 2015, RC Vote #241, 6/25/97)
* Bob supported many other proposals to improve healthcare throughout the time he served in the Colorado State Senate, the US House of Representative and as a member of the Colorado State Board of Education.