Senator Stevens Outlines Health Care Priorities
Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) today announced his key health care priorities in the next six years. These initiatives focus on a variety of areas including prevention, wellness, disease management, access to care, and increasing the number of health care professionals in Alaska. Senator Stevens' comprehensive approach addresses the needs a vast cross section of Alaskans including low-income families, seniors, veterans, Alaska Natives, fishermen, small businesses, the self-employed, and the disabled.
"All Alaskans deserve access to high quality and affordable health care," said Senator Stevens. "As I've travelled around the State, Alaska families have told me that due to the high cost of energy they have had to make tough choices. They often must decide between paying for a tank of gas or filling their prescription. This is a problem that troubles me greatly, and I intend to work with my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle to expand the health care services available to Alaskans."
After successfully crafting legislation to increase Medicare payments to Alaska doctors by 35 percent this year, Senator Stevens today pledged to continue to help seniors by establishing a Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) system for those over age 65. These accounts currently allow people under age 65 to save funds tax-free in a special account to pay for a variety of health services not covered or only partially covered by insurance. HSAs provide consumers with a wider variety of options in how they receive health care and make consumers more educated and cost conscious in their choices of health care providers and services. Senator Stevens plans to support legislation to make HSAs available to those over age 65.
Among Senator Stevens' top health care priorities is to increase funding for Alaska's successful statewide telemedicine system, which brings care to Alaskans even in the most remote parts of the state. Senator Stevens also committed to supporting legislation that encourages efforts in the private health insurance marketplace to provide payment to primary care health providers in promoting healthy lifestyles and effectively managing chronic health conditions.
"Health costs can be lowered over time through the promotion of healthy lifestyles and management of chronic diseases like diabetes," said Senator Stevens. "I will support legislation to provide Medicare payments to primary care health providers to manage' their patients instead of treating them only for episodes of illness. I will encourage efforts in private health insurance to do the same. Prevention and giving consumers more control is a key in solving our current health care crisis."
Alaska is facing a looming crisis with its lack of physicians and aging physician population. To combat this problem, Senator Stevens committed to work with the State of Alaska and the University of Alaska to explore the feasibility of establishing a medical school in Alaska to train our own doctors. The Senator will fight for federal funding for the Alaska Family Practice Residency, which trains young doctors here in Alaska to practice family medicine in rural areas; programs at our University to train mid-level health professionals like nurses and physicians assistants; legislation at the federal and State level to provide financial incentives, including loan forgiveness, for Alaskans who study to become health professionals.
"Everywhere I go in Alaska, I'm told that a major problem is the lack of doctors and nurses," said Senator Stevens. "Addressing this shortage will take a variety of creative approaches, including working with our university system to establish programs to ensure no Alaskan goes untreated. Our tele-health network has been the model for the nation. We need to establish the same kind of leadership in training and recruiting more doctors, dentists, and other healthcare professionals."