Kay's Answer: To treat costs, our current health care system needs a trip to the doctor. Almost 20 cents of every dollar earned in America is spent on healthcare. Insurance choices are shrinking, the cost of family coverage has doubled since 2000, and the current recession has many families fearing they're only a paycheck away from losing their health insurance.
While providing affordable health care to every American is a noble, compassionate goal, President Obama's federally mandated plan will do much more harm than good. If it is passed, almost 120 million Americans could lose their private coverage. In the end, government bureaucrats would make your health care choices not your doctor, not you.
On top of that, taxes would have to be raised on almost all Americans to pay for these "free" services. And, if a serious budget crisis ever hit, the government could limit the amount of care and services you and your family would be able to receive.
To fix our health care system, we must:
* Remove the tax penalty for families who choose to buy their own health insurance. Currently, employees who buy a health insurance plan at their job get a tax break. If they buy coverage on their own, though, there's no tax break. Congress should remove this penalty and direct other health care spending to help the poor buy private health insurance coverage. If the average family of four spends about $11,000 per year on health insurance, they should get a tax break equal to that amount. And if they want to pay for their own health care without insurance, they should not be penalized for that decision.
* Spend our federal health care dollars more responsibly. Instead of spending an additional $1.6 trillion on a plan financed by tax increases and savings from Medicare and Medicaid that may never happen, Congress should restructure and redirect existing health care spending to make it more effective. One way to do this would be to not expand health care spending using proposals to save money until such savings are proven to work. Right now, current legislation is pure pie-in-the-sky proposals.
* Develop health insurance plans for each state, not for the whole country. Every state faces its own health care challenges. Instead of applying the typical one-size-fits-all federal program, Congress should give each state the freedom to develop its own plan to meet common national goals, such as the ability to take your insurance plan across state lines if you move. In addition, each state should be able to create its own insurance pool for high-cost individuals, and have all insurers in the state participate.
* We need more legal reform. Another measure we could adopt here in Alabama is what I call a "two-fer." It would save costs as well as lead to greater availability of health care services in our more under-served areas of the state. Quite simply, we need tort-reform legislation that addresses the exorbitant cost of malpractice insurance for doctors due to the frivolous lawsuit abuse brought on by greedy plaintiff's trial lawyers. Sky-high insurance costs and jackpot justice have driven many doctors out of business in various pockets of the state. This has caused great damage to those who need better health care the most. Punitive costs and jackpot jury awards have to end.
The Benefits To You:
* Affordability: Giving families the freedom to choose their own health insurance coverage without penalties, and getting states to develop their own health care insurance plans are two of the best ways to make sure patients get the coverage they want at affordable rates.
* Economic security: If we can offer state solutions that fit actual needs with minimal federal assistance, then your taxes won't go up and we won't incur even more massive debt to burden our children in the future.
* Better medical access: If we can reform the out-of-sight costs for doctors, then the greater availability of doctors will lead to more convenience for patients, more access to basic services and medical specialties and a healthier population.
Medical care for small towns and rural areas
Kay's Answer: It's a very serious problem, and unfortunately, it keeps getting worse. Almost 2 million Alabamians (40 percent of us) live in areas that don't have a large hospital nearby. Rural families have to travel farther and wait longer for important medical care. This is especially bad for mothers-to-be and patients needing emergency surgery.
One of the biggest reasons why doctors are reluctant to expand their services or provide specialty care to patients in rural areas is the high cost of malpractice insurance. For some, the Washington Post reported that the cost of this insurance jumped from $40,000 to $200,000 in just one year. That's why many doctors in rural areas are retiring early, cutting back on services or scaling back the size of their practice.
For the good health of our citizens, we must entice doctors, nurses, and hospitals back into the rural parts of our state. Here's how we can make this happen:
The state must provide doctors and other health care providers with tax incentives to relocate to rural areas.
Create a new category of one-time insurance called "patient indemnity insurance". It would allow patients to purchase coverage for a botched surgery or other medical complication, the same way that people can now purchase insurance for unlikely events like airline disasters.
Reform malpractice law by granting immunity to medical professionals who provide emergency or charity care; and putting limits on the amount of non-economic damages such as "pain and suffering" and "loss of enjoyment of life" that a doctor can be sued for.
Keeping Alabama healthy means keeping people in all parts of the state healthy. As Governor, I will see to it that no section of our state is neglected by the healthcare industry.
The Benefit to You:
Creating new incentives for health care providers, offering better patient insurance coverage and reforming Alabama's malpractice laws would bring more doctors, hospitals and better health care to 2 million of our state's rural residents.