Stranahan, video (03:42)
Howie P.S.: As I watched the video and listened to its message about how in Washington "everybody talks like they are for welfare reform," I was reminded of an email I received from Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). She implies that she is a strong advocate of "reform" and in favor of a "public option." A closer reading of her position(s) (below) seems to indicate that she is not really in favor of a strong, publicly-funded health care option for consumers and supports other questionable changes to our system. She serves on the Senate Finance with Baucus. You read it and tell me what you think:
Thank you for contacting me about health care reform. I appreciate hearing your suggestions on this critical issue and sincerely regret the delayed response.
Medicare is in many ways an extremely successful program for America's seniors, but it also needs some serious improvements. For example, many Washington State residents currently struggle to find doctors that will accept new Medicare patients. This problem exists largely because Washington gets penalized under the Medicare reimbursement structure, which adjusts payments on a regional basis in a way that penalizes efficient health care delivery. Washington State is a national leader in producing high-quality health outcomes at a low cost. Unfortunately, this means our Medicare providers get reimbursed at a rate that is almost 30 percent less than providers get in high-cost states like New Jersey. Beneficiaries in these high-cost states are not producing better health outcomes; they are just pocketing more of our money. We need to make sure we fix these problems in a public option, or Washington residents will just continue to subsidize expensive, lower-quality care in other parts of the country.
I am helping to address this and other underlying flaws in our current health care system through the MEDIC Act (S. 1262), which I introduced on June 15, 2009. This bill would shift the way Medicare pays physicians to better reward the efficient, high-quality health care many Washington State physicians provide. This would help to fix Washington State's low Medicare reimbursement rates, expanding access to more Medicare beneficiaries throughout Washington.
I also introduced the Preserving Patient Access to Primary Care Act (S. 1174) on June 3, 2009 to improve access to primary care in America. Washington State, and the nation as a whole, already face a dire shortage of primary care providers. Making health care accessible to all Americans will be impossible without the workforce needed to care for them. This bill would help to expand access to primary care, especially in underserved areas, by creating incentives, such as scholarship and loan forgiveness programs, for medical students who choose to enter primary care. It would also improve the Medicare payment system to incentivize well-coordinated, preventative primary care services.
Additionally, I introduced two bills on June 11, 2009 to improve long-term care for the elderly and people with disabilities. Both bills seek empower people to choose home and community based long-term care services instead of forcing them to receive higher cost nursing home care that may not meet their individual needs. One bill, called the Home and Community Balanced Incentives Act (S. 1256), does this by incentivizing states to develop successful home and community based long-term care programs under Medicaid. One-third of the total national Medicaid budget currently goes to cover long-term care. When home and community based care can be provided at just one-third of what a nursing home costs, not making home and community based care more available to Medicaid beneficiaries makes no sense. The second bill, called Project 2020 (S. 1257), would help give people the support they need to stay healthy in home and community settings before they ever end up on Medicaid. Currently, the average person lasts just six months in long-term care before going on Medicaid. By offering home and community based long-term care to those most in danger of ending up in Medicaid, we can provide better, more personalized coverage, while saving billions of dollars in state and federal funding.
These reforms are just a few of the examples of the new focus we need to have in health care. I am committed to finding ways to provide better care at a lower cost, which will help us pay for the other critical reforms America can no longer afford to postpone. Please be assured that I will keep your comments in mind as I work to provide every American with quality health care they can afford.
Thank you so much for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter. Finally, I would like to keep you informed of what is happening in D.C. Every Monday, I provide a brief outline about my work in the Senate and issues of importance to Washington State. If you are interested in getting this update, please visit my website at http://cantwell.senate.gov. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.Sincerely,
United States Senator
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