Election offers hope for affordable health care

by Lesley Politi on December 11, 2008

We’ve just elected a new President and Congress, and here in the Lone Star State, our lawmakers convene in just a few short weeks. The question looms: Will these state and federal leaders take action to address some of our nation’s most serious ills? And, what can we do as individuals to take personal responsibility for our health?

Front and center among the most important issues facing Texas and America today has to be substantive reform of our health care system to ensure health care insurance is affordable and accessible to all.

Pundits, politicians and health care advocates alike have voiced in unison the need to address the health care crisis in our country. And, the current economic downturn only exacerbates the problem of the uninsured.

Hit by hard economic times, Americans looking to tighten their pocketbooks often forgo preventive care visits and prescription medicines.

We shouldn’t have to choose among gas, food on the table and preventive health care. And, nearly 6 million Texans shouldn’t have to rely on hospital emergency rooms for their basic health care needs.

Here in Texas alone a staggering 5.8 million remain uninsured, impacting access to health care even for those who have insurance and the pockbooks of taxpayers forced to carry burden at the local and state level.

A common myth is that these uninsured are illegal immigrants, the homeless or are unemployed, but the reality is that the bulk of these uninsured are working people or have at least one working family member in the household.

And, for those fortunate enough to have health insurance coverage, the crisis still reaches us in terms of out-of-pocket costs and quality of care.

Couple the realities of the lack of access to affordable health care with a Texas population that is rapidly aging, an obesity epidemic that is truly Texas-sized and an ever-increasing prevalence of diabetes in our state, and you’ll see that we’re set on a collision course.

While there is no silver bullet to fix this situation, I am convinced that if we work together and work with our leaders in Texas and Washington we can affect change.

There’s a certain amount of personal responsibility we all must take for our own health by not smoking and by exercising, eating well and controlling our weight.

Start right here at home. The Texas Hospital Association and our members are ready to work with the Texas Legislature to address the uninsured problem head-on with innovative and common-sense solutions, including:

• Restructure the state’s high risk insurance pool to increase access and affordability for small groups and individuals through state-funded premium subsidies or reinsurance.
• Create tax incentives to make insurance coverage more affordable to small employers.
• Allow a parent to cover a child older than age 25 on his/her plan if they are willing to cover the cost.
• Adequately fund provider rates so costs are not shifted to businesses and individuals with insurance.
• Refine enrollment efforts for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) so all eligible individuals are covered.
These are just a few of the ways Texas can address the health care crisis head on.

Certainly, we hope our federal leaders will make reforms, but we can’t wait on Washington.

Nearly nine in 10 Texans favor making health insurance more affordable and accessible, according to a statewide survey by the Texas Hospital Association. And, most Texans think a solution is needed now. Let’s work together — local communities, health care providers and state lawmakers — to make sure we take immediate action against a crisis that hurts us all.

Source: www.chron.com

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