You have no doubt heard it said lately, “Something’s going around!” It is the time of year when doctors’ offices are crowded, busy places.
Some other things that are “going around” are potential solutions to what ails Pennsylvania’s health care system. Everyone agrees that the goals of more affordable, more accessible and higher quality health care are realistic and reasonable. The debate is over how we go about it.
Gov. Ed Rendell’s plan to provide health care insurance for all Pennsylvanians included a 3 percent payroll tax on employers who do not offer health insurance to their employees. Its $20 million price tag in administrative costs and negative impact on the state’s business climate soured nearly everyone on this idea.
In addition, the governor’s plan involves using part of a $500 million surplus from an account that helps doctors pay their malpractice insurance. This is not a sustainable funding source. Once this funding is exhausted in just one year, the General Assembly would have to find another way to fund this new entitlement program. The governor is also holding doctors and hospitals hostage by withholding their abatement funding while the legislature is forced to vote his health care plan. This comes as we face a medical crisis in the dwindling number of doctors in Pennsylvania, primarily because of the cost of malpractice insurance. Currently only 3 percent of Pennsylvania’s doctors are under the age of 35 and approximately 8 percent of the state’s resident medical students are remaining here to practice medicine. We need to make our state more attractive to the medical profession.
The House Republican Caucus has a clear, detailed alternative health care plan, researched over the past year and designed to make health care more accessible and affordable for all Pennsylvanians. Our plan focuses on people – the uninsured and the insured, the employer and the employee – giving them choices, flexibility and security in their health care with no tax increases. The plan empowers the people affected most by it by providing more than $200 million in tax credits for wellness programs and health savings accounts. It addresses medical liability reform by extending the MCARE abatement for physicians helping to keep them in the state and using reserve funds to retire the MCARE unfunded liability.
The plan also reforms the AdultBasic program, which currently attempts to provide coverage for the uninsured, by using sliding scale premiums based on income, which directly benefits more of the uninsured.
The uninsured population is a symptom of the real disease…the high cost of care. Our plan attacks the cost drivers in our health care system. The Pennsylvania LifeLine Insurance Act (House Bill 1825) will require insurance providers to offer basic, standardized plans that would be more affordable so many of those currently uninsured will be able to obtain coverage.
Eight percent of Pennsylvanians are without health care. That figure is among the lowest in the United States. Why jeopardize the care for more than 11 million Pennsylvanians who are receiving high quality health care already to create a new, unproven government-run system, which won’t even address the problem?
Achieving a more palatable health care climate is a realistic objective. We as legislators owe that to our constituents. We also owe them the chance to exist in that climate in a manner that is less taxing on their pocketbooks.
Rep. Dave Hickernell
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 3, 2008