Fighting for lower health care costs and patient safety
Phyllis Mundy believes that working families deserve access to affordable health care. She also believes that steps must be taken immediately to reign in the costs of health care. And older Pennsylvanians on fixed incomes shouldn't have to choose between paying their household bills and paying for medications they need. That's why Phyllis is fighting for lower health care and prescription costs and better patient safety.
Patient Safety and Preventing Medical Error
A July 2004 study by Health Grades, Inc. concluded that little has been accomplished to improve medical error prevention and patient safety since the 1999 Institute of Medicine study over five years ago. According to the study, with no significant improvement over the last five years, we may have lost an additional 490,000 Americans due to our failure to improve patient safety. Medical errors are currently not recognized as a cause of death by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, however, if they were, medical errors would be ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
In an effort to respond to this continuing crisis, Phyllis has introduced legislation to give a 20% discount in medical malpractice insurance to health care providers that implement a total quality management system. Total quality management systems, such as ISO 9000, which have been successfully implemented for years in private industry, are reducing medical errors and reducing health care costs in health care facilities in many parts of the nation.
Protecting Employees Who Report Medical Errors
The lack of reporting by employees in the medical field not only costs lives and preventable injuries, but results in increased costs in healthcare, litigation, and malpractice insurance rates. Phyllis has introduced legislation, entitled the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, to prohibit retaliation against conscientious employees who try to remedy improper quality of patient care. It also protects employees who provide information or testimony in an investigation conducted by a public body, and specifically protects a licensed or certified health care professional who provides information to any public body conducting an investigation. Also, this legislation protects an employee who objects to or refuses to participate in any activity which they believe to be in violation of the law.
Lower Health Care Costs
Phyllis knows that in addition to protecting patients, we must begin to control the costs of the health care system. While this is a very complex problem for which there are no easy answers, Phyllis is working on the state level to help control health care costs.
Since the sunset of the Certificate of Need (CON) program in the mid 1990s, there has been no statutory requirement that health care facilities prove the need to buy expensive new equipment or that there is need in the community for these additional services. As a result, there has been an increase in the number of ambulatory surgical facilities, diagnostic imaging facilities and similar non-hospital health care facilities around the state. The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council believes this adds unnecessary cost to the health care system. Phyllis is currently working on a bill to reinstate the CON program in as an effort to curb escalating health care costs.
Phyllis has also been fighting for years to hold Pennsylvania's Blue Cross and Blue Shield organizations accountable as they amassed millions of dollars in surplus at the same time they raised rates in the double digits every year and made charitable contributions with ratepayer money. Phyllis achieved a victory against the Blues in February of 2005 when Commissioner Diane Koken placed a cap on the Blues' surplus. As a result of Koken's decision, Blue Cross of Northeastern PA will not be allowed to include a "risk and contingency factor" in future rate increase requests, i.e., they will not be allowed to build further surplus at subscriber expense. The decision also requires that if a Blues' surplus exceeds the cap, the Blues will have to report to the Commissioner how it intends to spend down the excess surplus.
In continuing the fight for lower health care premiums, Phyllis has reintroduced her legislation to limit the Blues surplus to three months of claims payments and require that any revenue above that level be used to lower rates.
Affordable Prescription Drugs for Seniors
We've read the news stories. Prescription drug costs rising. HMO's dropping prescription drug coverage. Seniors rationing medications to make ends meet. Something needs to be done.
Phyllis supported the passage of legislation that expanded the PACE and PACENET eligibility for more seniors, while eliminating the high deductible and reducing co-payments for all seniors in the program. This way, no older Pennsylvanian will have to choose between paying for heat or food or the medications they need to survive.