The Daily News - Mathern Unveils Healthcare Plan
Erin C. Hevern
With more than 20 rural hospitals operating at a deficit in the state of North Dakota, Dem-NPL Gubernatorial Candidate Sen. Tim Mathern said a number of things need to change with the state's health care system to avoid a crisis.
A four point plan released this week addresses the need to help North Dakota families struggling with the rising cost of health care, and elderly struggling to find adequate care.
A first step in providing quality health care is to address the failing infrastructure and spend the money to support its recovery.
"Large and small hospitals are losing money because reimbursement rates are not keeping up with rising costs," Mathern said. "We have to make sure they have enough money to exist and to keep developing their system."
Mathern, if elected governor, would develop a revolving low-cost loan fund to help rural hospitals with infrastructure needs. Once paid back, the money would be available to other hospitals. Also, in hopes of protecting health care providers, Mathern would increase Medicaid reimbursements to large and small hospitals, and physicians so they could at least cover their costs.
"I believe government needs to pay its bills," Mathern said, adding that North Dakota has approximately $1.2 billion in the bank in surplus.
The four point plan also focuses on prevention and reducing high rates of chronic illness.
"A Mathern administration will implement prevention programs for an estimated $2.1 billion dollars of savings over what is currently spent on health care," Mathern said. "We need the prevention kinds of programs to help our seniors stay well and those need to be connected to our health care facilities so we aren't segmenting out different aspects of people's lives."
Prevention efforts include providing health insurance for all kids so they are able to see a doctor regularly, increased physical education in schools and promoting healthy lifestyle programs in workplaces.
Also incorporated into Mathern's plan is providing health coverage for every child through Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, Healthy Steps, to the maximum amount allowed by the federal government.
"This reduces what the rest of us pay for the health care of these uninsured kids with higher insurance premiums," Mathern said.
A last point in Mathern's plan is to make health insurance affordable and available to every adult and business in the state that needs it.
Beyond his four point plan, Mathern raised concerns Wednesday on keeping rural hospitals in North Dakota staff and offering competitive, "family wages."
"We need to actually have practitioners that know about health care. We need to increase wages in our region so that people will actually be here who have special skills, so that young people won't all leave," Mathern said.
Addressing the needs of the elderly aren't really just direct, he added, "we need to make sure we have young people here to develop and carry out the service."