The information on the cost of U.S. healthcare is well known. We, as a society, pay 50-100% more than many of our international counterparts. This is a heavy burden on our competitiveness in the global market. The cost also makes it more difficult for low income families to afford insurance coverage. And as a result, while American healthcare is great in an emergency and for some procedures we have more than 40 million Americans without insurance coverage and receiving substandard care.
Idaho has more than 200,000 individuals without health coverage. We spend more than $50 million each year in financial assistance for indigent health costs, and tens of millions more is "cost shifted" to those with insurance. We also are low in the number of primary care givers, doctors and nurse practitioners, which adds to the burden of cost.
It is past time for us to do something to improve the cost and the quality of the care Idahoans receive. I have worked hard on healthcare projects including the Idaho Health Data Exchange, funding for Family Medicine residencies, reforming Medicaid to be more financially accountable, restructuring the Indigent Program, and expanding Mental Health and Substance abuse treatment to make us less dependent on prisons as the treatment for those individuals.
The national health reform package recently adopted offers an opportunity to expand coverage (which should lower the cost shift to those currently insured) but also to improve the cost of American healthcare. These changes will require a lot of State activity, and I will continue to work to represent the best interests of Idaho patients, families and businesses as the transformation takes place over the ensuing years.