The Times Free Press asked area lawmakers, health care professionals and others to offer their views, in 100 words, on what the future of health care reform should be. Below is a sample of answers from those who responded. The responses were edited for Associated Press style and so that each would be roughly the same length. Respondents are listed in alphabetical order. For more, go to www.timesfreepress.com.
Craig Becker, president, Tennessee Hospital Association
“The Tennessee Hospital Association supports the proposed health care reform plan of the Rolling Hills Group, which was established in 2008 to develop a health care reform plan for Tennessee that could serve as a model for other states and the nation.The Rolling Hills Group established four overarching principles for health care reform. These are:
·All Americans should have health insurance.
·Reform should produce high value for the dollars spent.
·Reform should increase the use of best practices and evidence-based medicine.
·Reform should be funded through changes to the federal tax code and better use of current health care dollars.”
Jim Brexler, president and CEO, Erlanger Health System
"Under the current health care system, many Americans are using the most expensive resources to obtain care and waiting too late for treatment.
We believe there needs to be health care reform driven by several key principles, including: the removal of regulatory barriers that prevent hospitals, doctors and payors from coming together to find a more cost effective system of delivering care; insurance reform that eliminates exceptions for pre-existing conditions; expanded coverage using a mix of private and public structures and funding; the increased use of best-practices to ensure better outcomes; health care tort reform and personal accountability for one’s own health."
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
“I think Congress should start over and take a step-by-step approach to create meaningful health care legislation in a bipartisan manner. Americans need and deserve greater access to health insurance, and I strongly believe we can make health care affordable through tax credits, tax breaks, by allowing families to purchase health insurance across state lines, supporting preventative medicine and wellness, and meaningful tort reform. We also need insurance reform, so that Americans with pre-existing conditions won’t be penalized, and so those who change or lose their jobs will be able to take their health insurance with them.”
U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn.
“As health care costs consume a greater share of our families’ expenses and coverage can be dropped without reason, the need for reform is more apparent than ever. The progress of reform thus far has been disheartening. I am hopeful that as this debate moves forward, Democrats and Republicans can come together to enact reforms worthy of the American people. Folks in my district could care less about the partisan gamesmanship that is being waged by ideologues who are only interested in scoring political points. They want affordable and accessible care, and they want an honest discussion on workable solutions.”
Ron Harr, senior vice president, Human Resources and Public Affairs, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee
“BlueCross continues to support health care reform. We believe that reform should be sustainable and transparent —where the true costs are known.
“While congressional efforts to expand affordable coverage are laudable, the current bills have the opposite effect. Because they do not address the underlying cost drivers in the system, the bills raise health care costs for everyone and obscure the true, long-term financial impact.
“Congress should work with all concerned parties to address the underlying cost drivers in the system. This focus should include things like pay-for-performance, evidence-based standards for care, shared accountability, health information technology, and wellness initiatives.”
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.
“In order to move forward on health care, the White House must ensure that the Democratic health care bills in the House and Senate will not be the basis for moving forward. I believe there could be some common ground between Republicans and Democrats in terms of insurance portability and not being rejected for pre-existing conditions or cancelled if you have a disease. However, the best way to reach these goals is through choice and competition in the private sector.”
Jeannette Martin, M.D., retired Chattanooga pediatrician
“The current administration was elected by the people to be the leader in, among other grave issues, reform of our health care system. What has happened is maintenance of party loyalty, concessions to special interest groups (pharmaceutical, health care, and hospital industries), injection of extraneous concerns, resulting in loss of the desired goal.
“Keeping foremost in mind what has been learned, efforts should begin anew, and our legislators should do what should be done: put away all pretense... meet each other face to face ... put into action our better impulses, straightforward and unafraid ... know the great common heart of us all.”
Darrell Moore, president and CEO, Parkridge Medical Center, Inc.
“I believe our leaders in Washington need to focus on the core issue related to health care reform — making sure uninsured Americans who cannot afford or cannot obtain insurance have access to health care coverage. While they have been debating this issue, unemployment has grown, and so has the number of uninsured. The issue is compounded by state budget deficits, much like here in Tennessee, where extraordinary benefits reductions in TennCare are proposed to bridge the gap in state revenue and expenses. It is neither feasible nor sustainable for health care providers to continue to shoulder the burden of caring for our nation’s uninsured.”
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn.
“The president should instruct Congress to pass a bill that only includes ideas receiving broad bipartisan support, then he should sit down with Republican leaders, Democratic leaders and a blank piece of paper and figure out precisely what to include. I would like to see health insurance portability, health savings accounts, small business pooling and medical malpractice reform, but whatever is included, the legislation must increase access and lower costs. It cannot reduce existing coverage, nor can it include job-killing mandates. We can accomplish reform quickly if the President leads us away from the House bill and towards common ground.”
John W. Sorrow, president, Mid-South Region, CIGNA HealthCare.
“Every American should have access by combining guarantee-issue coverage with an individual mandate and premium assistance to make coverage affordable, while eliminating pre-existing exclusions and ratings based on health status or gender.
“We remain concerned that levying additional taxes or assessments, proposing arbitrary medical loss ratios or requiring guaranteed coverage without an individual mandate would be counterproductive – turning back the clock on quality, threatening consumers’ access and choice, and worsening the cost-shift burden within the system.
“We will continue working in a constructive bipartisan manner to achieve the broader goals we support of expanding access, controlling costs and improving quality for all.”
Bill Taylor, Physician Practice Resources in Chattanooga.
“The Obama health care Initiative should be scrapped and a more rational plan developed. I’m of the opinion that the government which governs best is that government which governs least.
“The first step is to require health insurance companies to return to their role as the risk management tools insurance companies are supposed to be.
“Second is to take the employer out of the middle of the equation. Make the insurance companies responsible to the individuals they cover by making all policies individual policies.
“Third is to promote efficiency in the continuum of care.
“Fourth, the current Medicaid/Medicare/Private arrangement should be recognized for the three tiered system it is and reorganized somewhat to cover all individuals.”
J. Mack Worthington, M.D., past president, Tennessee Medical Association.
“As I have watched health care reform progress, it reminds me of building a house. Your goal is to provide shelter. As the project moves forward, choices appear. Do you want a carport or a two-car garage? Do you want carpet or marble for your floors? Do you want shingles or a tile roof?
Soon the idea of a basic shelter has evaporated into an expensive project that exceeds your needs and likely your budget. Health care reform should go back to the drawing board and maintain a narrow focus of providing affordable health care for the millions that have no coverage.”