Affordable Health Care Plan - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

09/12/06 - Texas

Affordable Health Care Plan

"Rising health care costs are a strain on Texas families, seniors and small business owners trying to make ends meet. My plan makes sure Texans have access to the care they need at a price they can afford."

Strayhorn's plan - part of her Texas First Agenda - will fully restore the Children's Health Insurance Program and will use unspent federal dollars and insurance purchasing pools to provide access to lower-cost health insurance for working families, force the Texas Department of Insurance to actively support and promote small businesses' ability to pool resources to purchase affordable insurance, provide long-term care that emphasizes independent living for Texans with disabilities and frail elderly Texans, create a prevention and wellness division in the Texas Department of State Health Services, dramatically expand nursing education and promote an electronic medical records system to improve care and cut health care costs.

"Texas has the sixth largest economy in the world on a per capita basis and we are dead last in the percentage of children with insurance and adults with insurance, including working Texans," Strayhorn said. "We ought to be ashamed. Health care costs and poor coverage threaten the quality of life, health and the future well-being of our state."

The "Affordable Health Care for Texans Plan:"

Working parents and their employers will be able to purchase affordable insurance through a new program. The plan will include a purchasing pool funded with a combination of unspent federal CHIP funds, state dollars, and employee and employer contributions. The state funds will be matched by the federal government at 72 percent, allowing the up to $1 billion in federal money that Texas has sent to other states to be returned to Texas. A Strayhorn administration will fully restore CHIP eligibility.

Small business owners will also be encouraged to pool together and purchase insurance for employees. A Strayhorn e-Texas recommendation approved by the Legislature is already law, but the Texas Department of Insurance has not adequately promoted the program. Strayhorn will appoint an Insurance Commissioner who will make it a top priority to promote affordable insurance for small business owners.

Long-term care emphasizing independent living will be provided for Texans with disabilities and frail, elderly Texans. A new federal program provides an 80 percent match rate for Texans with disabilities who need assistance with independent living, and in a Strayhorn administration the state will invest in the plan, allowing them to choose the care they need and where they wish to live.

I will focus the Texas Department of State Health Services division of prevention and preparedness services into a new division of prevention and wellness. The division will actively and aggressively educate senior citizens about the importance of getting flu shots and pneumonia shots and screening for diabetes and heart disease. The division will work with non-profit, private sector organizations such as Meals on Wheels, the AARP and The United Way to educate seniors about the importance of overall wellness. The division will also educate children and young parents, among other Texans, about the importance of wellness and nutrition programs. Wellness will be a top priority in my administration.

Nursing education will be dramatically expanded in a Strayhorn administration. Every medical institution in the state is in dire need of nurses, while the only nursing school recently approved by the Legislature remains unfunded. Strayhorn will fully fund Texas Tech University's Health Science Center at El Paso, insist universities use nursing funds for nursing education, and expand nursing colleges in conjunction with existing universities and medical institutions in Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley.

Electronic medical records - in the era of iPods, cellular phones, and lap-top computers - are drastically underutilized and will improve care. Strayhorn will bring medical institutions together with business organizations that provide the bulk of private sector health insurance to promote public/private collaboration for electronic health record standards. She will launch public-private pilot programs that will resolve logistical challenges that have hindered electronic medical records, which would prevent medical errors. Simply sharing medical records could save 5 percent; and reducing the over use and under use of medical services could save as much as 30 percent. Strayhorn has set a goal that most Texans will have electronic medical records by the end of the decade.

"Texans need greater access to affordable health care - plain and simple," Strayhorn said. "When we get sick and have insurance we can pay the bill. But when hard-working Texans who can not afford health insurance get sick, we all pay the bill in the form of higher taxes and higher premiums."

Strayhorn said the state can pay for her plan with existing resources. In the last six years, the state's budget has increased $44 billion or 45 percent.

"Where do we get the money? I've outlined $8 billion in long-term ‘Strayhorn Solutions' in addition to identifying an $8.2 billion surplus. We have the money, what the Austin political establishment lacks is the leadership, wisdom and courage to do what is best for all Texans, not just the special few," she said.

As part of her Texas First Agenda, Strayhorn has outlined a number of initiatives to address the state's most pressing issues, including a comprehensive education plan and a detailed transportation plan. Her plans can be found at www.onetoughgrandma.com.

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