Since this is the period of the Legislative Session when the Governor has his veto days and the Senate does not meet, I wanted to discuss the issue of making health care more accessible and more affordable for all Kentuckians. As the former CEO of a rural hospital, improving health care was a major factor that drove my decision to run for public office.
One bill I sponsored to help with this cause was Senate Bill 205, related to prescription drugs, which unanimously passed both the Senate and the House. Senate Bill 205 is a common-sense measure that makes it easier for patients to access their prescription medications and more difficult for patients to abuse them.
Since appearing on KET to discuss health care topics last month, several people have asked me to summarize the general plan I presented to reform health care that would make it accessible and affordable to all Americans. My plan evolves from the fact that our country spends two to three times more on health care than other industrialized nation. This makes me believe that there is enough money presently in our system to provide affordable health care to every person in America, if spent appropriately.
Specifically, I would do the following:
1. Reduce the excess bureaucracy which is strangling health care providers and unnecessarily increasing costs by billions of dollars.
2. Eliminate the "profiteering" in health care. No one should make a fortune from the misfortune of others. As an example, the president of a major insurance company in this country made an income, including his stock options, of over $150 million in one year! That would buy a lot of health care. The recent issue of the astronomical price increase of epi-pens is another example. We need to recognize the special role health care plays in our society and not view it as just another product or service within our economy.
3. Undertake tort reform, which we are attempting to do in the current legislative session by passing Senate Bill 4. It has been estimated that the cost of health care has increased by 25 percent due to the practice of defensive medicine and attempts to avoid lawsuits.
4. Restructure our welfare delivery system to truly give people a hand up instead of a hand out. Presently, over 40 percent of our working age adults are not even in the work force in our country. This has skyrocketed the cost of the Medicaid program to the point it is not sustainable. We have to get people back to work.
5. Build personal accountability for one's own health into the health care delivery system. As an example, I would not begrudge anyone their right to smoke, but I don't think non-smoking Americans should have to bear the financial burden of treating the illnesses which we know are directly related to smoking. In Kentucky alone, it is estimated the cost to treat smoking related illnesses cost in excess of $2 billion annually.
6. The discriminatory payment practices against rural health care providers which pay them significantly less than their urban colleagues should be eliminated to encourage and incentivize health care practitioners to come to rural communities. This will increase access to primary care and allow earlier intervention of illnesses.
7. Fill the spiritual abyss in this country which is growing deeper and wider each and every day. This void is destroying our society and its absence is manifesting itself in hate and violence and murder and rampant substance abuse. A recent study found it costs over $10,000 to treat a single gunshot wound in our country. And, guess who pays for it? How do we fill this abyss? Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
I guarantee if we undertake these actions, especially the last item on my list, to address the lack of affordable and accessible health care for our country, these issues will be resolved.
We will still likely pass a few more bills on the final days of this session on March 29 and 30, so I encourage you to continue reaching out to me with issues that concern you. It is an honor to serve you in Frankfort, and I look forward to continuing to work on your behalf in the General Assembly.
If you have any questions or comments about the issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Stephen.Meredith@LRC.ky.gov. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.