Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cantwell: Reforming Our Nation’s Health Care System is Vital to Economic Recovery, Health of Businesses and Citizens

Cantwell Works to Address Long Term Care, Medicare Reimbursements, and Primary Care Physician Shortages; Hosts Discussion in Vancouver

VANCOVUER, WA – As Congress works to address reforming our nation’s health care system, today U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) hosted a discussion with a cross section of health care stakeholders from southwestern Washington state to discuss reforming the nation’s Long Term Care system, the importance of addressing critical physician shortages the areas where they are needed most, and Medicare reimbursement payments. Over the next few weeks, Cantwell plans to introduce legislation to address our country’s growing health care crisis. Her legislative efforts aim to reduce costs, increase healthy outcomes, provide incentives for physicians practicing primary care in rural communities; and, provide patients with quality, affordable, accessible care.

“There’s something wrong in this country when Starbucks reportedly spends more on health care than on coffee beans and GM spends more on these costs than steel. Health care costs represent the fastest growing cost for American businesses, hindering job creation, hurting our ability to compete, and straining the household incomes of millions of Americans,” said Cantwell. “We should be highly concerned that every time the unemployment number rises by one percentage point, the number of uninsured Americans grows by another million people. Right here in Clark County, the unemployment rate jumped from 8.7 percent in December to 11.9 percent in February, and across the state, more than 14.7 percent of people are living without insurance. We must work to make sure health care costs go down, and that our health care providers are better able to respond to their patients’ needs. We must focus on prevention and getting people treatment when it is most effective. Far too many of our nation’s uninsured and underinsured wait until the last possible moment to get care. To achieve true reform, we must address three critical problems: the critical shortage of primary physicians, Medicare reimbursement cuts, and inefficiencies of our long-term care management system.”

Cantwell’s health care bills would:

Reduce federal Medicaid and Medicare costs by approximately $2.8 billion over five years by letting people access home and community-based long-term care and avoid Medicaid.
Expand enrollment in allied health training programs and address chronic shortages in the field.
Encourage hospitals to expand residency programs in rural communities by creating an interest-free loan program.
Address the shortage of primary care physicians.
Help people avoid receiving care in nursing homes by coordinating care for “dual eligible” patients (those who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid) and providing them with preventative and wellness education.

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