Ten solutions for a healthier Washington
For the Courier-Times
When it comes to health care reform, most of us want the same thing. We want to make sure everyone has access to affordable, quality health care. The question is: “How do we get there?”
While the national debate centers around health care proposals in Congress, many of affordability and accessibility problems in our state could be addressed by our Legislature.
For the past two months, Washington House Republicans have traveled throughout the state, holding public forums on a 10-point health care reform plan that could be implemented by the Legislature in the coming session. The first forum was held Aug. 31 in Bellingham. The most recent was conducted Oct. 5 in Burlington.
Our solutions seek to protect what is working, fix what is broken, repair the safety net for the truly needy, and remove government barriers that prevent affordable, accessible health care. They include:
1. House Bill 1871: Allow purchase of health care plans in other states. This gives consumers more options to choose from a competitive, affordable menu of coverage.
2. House Bill 1868: New choices for small employers. Our proposal would allow small businesses and their employees to choose affordable, customized health insurance plans that meets their individual needs.
3. House Bill 1866: Young adult plans. Young adults ages 19 to 34 are generally healthy and have lower medical bills. They should be allowed to purchase cost-effective plans that meet their needs and budgets.
4. House Bill 1870: Allow Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) for state employees. This would allow medical expenses to be paid with pre-tax dollars, providing cost coverage for state employees and substantial savings for taxpayers.
5. House Bill 1867: Eliminate Certificate of Need (CoN). CoN restricts health care providers from expanding services without state approval. Repealing it would encourage innovation, options and choices.
6. House Bill 1865: Allow choices in benefit plans. One size does not fit all. You should have the option of getting coverage most appropriate for your individual needs, and the ability to pay more or less, depending on the options you choose.
7. House Bill 1872: Cut taxes on health care plans. We would repeal the 2 percent insurance premium tax for HSAs. Small employers and self-employed individuals would receive a tax credit for providing health insurance.
8. House Bill 2169: Reform the state’s Basic Health Plan. This would restore the original intent of this program of providing a safety net for the uninsured and vulnerable citizens who truly need, but cannot afford, health care coverage.
9. (Legislation being drafted): Protecting the rights of patients to make their own health care choices. This would ensure personal health care decisions are left between you and your doctor, not government bureaucrats or a pencil-pushing accountant looking out for an insurance carrier’s bottom line.
10. (Legislation being drafted): Comprehensive medical malpractice reform. Rising settlements and awards mean higher medical malpractice insurance rates and force doctors to practice defensive medicine (such as ordering unnecessary tests to prevent lawsuits). Those costs are passed onto patients. Tort reform would reduce providers’ costs.
Access to affordable health care for all of Washington’s residents is complicated, but not impossible. These 10 solutions include specific bills that provide an achievable plan which would lower costs, provide more options, and reduce regulations that serve as barriers against health care. I invite you to track these bills at www.leg.wa.gov and become part of the discussion. Together, we can ensure affordable, accessible health care will no longer be a missed opportunity for Washington’s citizens.
EDITOR’S NOTE: State Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, represents the 39th Legislative District, and also serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus. He can be contacted at (360) 786-7967 or from his Web site at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen.