Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Candidates on health care

Brandon Moseley, for The Alabama Reporter, has reported that the Christian Citizen Task Force will host a bipartisan U.S. Senate Forum on Thursday, July 6 at The Rock Family Worship Center at 2300 Memorial Pkwy SW in Huntsville, Alabama.
A forum is fine, but the candidates ought to put on their websites everything they want voters to know or hear. Candidates can make videos of themselves stating their views and post those on their websites. There should be online places for voters to comment and ask questions. The Alabama news media should step forward and provide this. The dialogue should be ongoing and open 24/7. Specially qualified or interested parties should be drawn into the discussion.
Ultimately, the Alabama news media should do its job, critique the candidates and their positions, and stretch to purvey the same to Alabama voters.
To try to nudge things, posted below are the candidates statements about health care, copied and pasted from their websites.
Readers are invited to post comments below about the positions of the candidates.

Luther Strange
Repeal and Replace Obamacare
Obamacare is a total failure. Skyrocketing premiums and deductibles have made health care unaffordable and inaccessible. Alabama families have learned that having access to health care insurance is not at all the same as having access to quality health care. 
Luther Strange is already working with fellow conservatives in Congress to shape legislation to help President Trump keep his promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered reform, leading to lowered premiums and increased access.

Mo Brooks
I have voted 50+ times to repeal or defund ObamaCare in whole or in part, and I have cosponsored legislation that replaces ObamaCare with common sense health care solutions that are patient/doctor and free enterprise centered.

Recently in an act of support for President Trump, I voted for the American Health Care Act. While the plan falls short of the full ObamaCare repeal that I called for and believe in, a partial repeal does more good for working American families than no repeal at all.

The ObamaCare status quo is unacceptable, and I look forward to continuing toward a full repeal of the disastrous healthcare law.

Roy Moore
We do not need socialized medicine which will ultimately lead to loss of quality and affordability of heath care, as well as a loss of access to the latest medical technology. Obamacare should be completely repealed as soon as possible.

Businesses should receive tax credits for employee health care coverage, and health insurance should be available between the states for competition and quality care.

Churches and charitable organizations should be encouraged to help the needy and poor.
[Update 10/14/17: The above copied and pasted from Roy Moore website on 7/4/17 is unchanged as of 10/14/17.]

Randy Brinson
As a physician, Randy has seen first hand the destructive effects of Obamacare on patients, their families, doctors and hospitals.  He supports the complete repeal of Obamacare and replacing it with common-sense, truly affordable health care reform.  Since that doesn’t appear likely to happen in this Congressional session, Randy will be ready on his first day to introduce legislation that will reign in the bureaucratic overreach of Obamacare, allow market-based insurance plans to be sold across State lines, require Medicaid block grants to States to cover the indigent through competitive bidding, and restore the power to make healthcare decisions to patients and their doctors.
Dom Gentile
Citizens of this state are spending more in premiums, deductibles and out of pocket expenses, and it’s going to get worse.  Blue Cross Blue Shield is currently the defendant in a huge lawsuit (being heard in Birmingham) that alleges Blue Cross affiliates in different states conspired to limit competition in order to charge higher rates to subscribers and offer lower payments to medical providers. Google it and get all the details.  Alabamians have very limited choice for health insurance which leads to higher costs.  Real competition and consumers having the ability to choose among several strong providers will lower cost.  That’s economics 101.
In a press release dated June 5, 2017 I laid out my plan to introduce legislation that allows consumers who reside in a state where one single large insurer has over a 70% market share (Alabama is one of them, as BCBS has over a 90% share) to buy their insurance in the same way that Congress and their staffs do.  Want to hear the good news?  Currently that would allow consumers in Alabama to choose from 112 plan options split up between 4 large insurance companies.
I believe that what’s fair for Congress is fair for their constituents.  Alabama congressmen, congresswomen and senators in Washington are on a different program than you and I are, and that’s wrong.  I told you that I would fight for the regular people of our state, and I meant it.
For details of the plans you would have to choose from, look at www.dchealthlink.com.
Bryan Peeples
Part 1: Tort Reform Medical Act

Tort Reform Medical Act (TRMA) seeks to establish limitations where individuals can be awarded for medical malpractice suits based upon the severity of the suit. TRMA will cap settlements on wrongful cases against hospitals with many insurers refusing to cover hospitals and physicians. This scarcity along with skyrocketing costs is thought to be the result of numerous professional liability claims and lawsuits. In order to control cost TRMA seeks to deter the liability of future accidents. TRMA sets the system currently in place is expensive and inefficient in the compensation of those injured.
According to a 2004 study of medical malpractice costs, "program administration—defense and underwriting costs—accounts for approximately 60 percent of total malpractice costs, and only 50 percent of total malpractice costs are returned to patients. These costs are high even when compared with other tort-based systems, such as automobile litigation or airplane crashes, that determine fault and compensate victims. Moreover, most patients that receive negligent care never receive any compensation. The Harvard Medical Practice Study found that only one malpractice claim was filed for every eight negligent medical injuries." Of the legal changes proposed by tort reformers, this study found that states capping payouts and restricting non-economic damages saw an average decrease of 17.1% in malpractice insurance premiums. However, more recent research provided by the insurance industry to the publication Medical Liability Monitor indicated that medical malpractice insurance rates had declined for four straight years. The decrease was seen in both states that had enacted tort reform and in states that had not, leading actuaries familiar with the data to suggest that patient safety and risk management campaigns had had a more significant effect. Similarly, Klick/Stratman (2005) found that capping economic damages saw an increase in doctors per capita.

Part 2: Health Insurance Reform

With Health Insurance Reform (HIR) must tear down the walls of limitation on the ability of health insurers to sell the services across state lines.  By allowing more competition into the market the cost of health insurance services and premiums will decrease. HIR will repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and allow the insurance companies to set plans to replace those set by ACA within an 18 month time frame. Once the repeal takes place access to purchase ACA plans will be halted and a termination date 18 months from set date ACA plans will expire. 12 months from termination date insurance companies will receive a list of all individuals on ACA plans. Six (6) months before ACA expires individuals and families will receive list of companies plans and rates for services to agree and roll into. ACA expiration date will terminate service associated with program and plans chosen by individuals or families will take affect. HIR will institute regulation preventing insurance companies from denying services to those with preexisting conditions. Preexisting conditions are set by an independent medical community and must maintain the standards set by independent medical counsel. HIR will also set channels for purchase into larger insurance community groups though nonprofit and for profit organizations. Individuals who do not want to purchase insurance coverage have the ability to deny services presented to them.

Part 3: Medical Services Reform

Medical Services Reform Act (MSRA) seeks to set limitations on medical faculties percentage of cost of services to align with the federal inflation rate.  MSRA seeks to regulate the consumer cost against the federal inflation rate to ensure medical services cost are affordable for all citizens. MSRA seeks to regulate all facilities performing medical services treat indigent citizens. MSRA seeks bring cost of Medicaid and Medicare funding in line with inflation rates to prevent over or under funding of services provided by medical facilities.

Part 4: Prescription Drug Reform

Prescription Drug Reform Act (PDRA) seeks to lower the cost of patients on name brand and generic prescription drugs by placing limited regulation on the pharmaceutical industry on terms to bring products to market. PDRA seeks to prevent pharmaceutical companies from advertising to public consumers and limit marketing to physicians exclusively. Currently the patent hold on pharmaceuticals is set at 20 years before expiration. PDRA seeks to decrease patent length from 20 years to five (5) years to bring viable generic pharmaceuticals to market. PDRA seeks to limit the percentage increase insurance carriers can implement on name brand pharmaceuticals when patients choses or needs name brand over generic options. PDRA seeks to prohibit insurance carriers from preventing coverage of cost associated with name brand pharmaceuticals and must cover when option is weighed. PDRA seeks to allow patient to access pharmaceutical products that are FDA approved from Canada and Mexico without prejudice or punitive repercussions when option(s) are available at a lower cost.

I support quality, affordable health care for every American. I realize the complexity of the issue and remain open to innovative solutions. But I am concerned that the political climate is hurting more than helping, especially for folks living in Alabama.
Washington is Hurting Americans by Playing Partisan Politics with Our Healthcare
The plan passed by the Republican House is a cheap political trick – playing partisan politics and leaving 23 million more people without real healthcare options. It was “negotiated” behind closed doors among factions in the Republican Party without the benefit of the advice of experts and stakeholders that deliver healthcare services. Now the Republican-controlled Senate is doing the exact same thing. Congress must operate with more openness and transparency
If we really want to make life better for Americans (and Alabamians) let’s talk about what we keep and what we change in the ACA.
  • I will work to defend Medicare and Medicaid,
  • I will ensure young people can stay on their family plan,
  • I will prevent discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions,
  • I will ensure veterans get the care and benefits they’ve earned.
Congress must continue to take a critical look at healthcare reform, but anything that gets my support must pass four tests:
  • All Americans deserve the right to quality, affordable healthcare.
  • No American should be unable to make ends meet from out-of-control medical bills.
  • Pre-existing conditions should never be a reason to deny care or make care unaffordable.
  • Preventative care should be a foundation of our health care system. It is inefficient and dangerous for Americans to rely on the emergency room to treat preventable illness.
I think these principles are critical to the many plans and options that will unfold. The ACA was not intended to be the final word on healthcare – but the improvements should strive toward universal coverage.
We are all shaped by our own experiences – especially when it comes to the complications of healthcare. As I campaign for the Senate today; my priority is still my family.
My parents are now in need of more substantial care than a few years ago. We are navigating the complex world of multiple specialists, lack of capacity, and skyrocketing costs. My folks were modest, hard-working people. Healthcare costs are eating away their modest savings and we are working with both Medicare and Medicaid to see that they get the care they need. I truly understand firsthand the frustrations many have with our system.
Women’s Health:
I reject the war on Planned Parenthood as another Washington-centered partisan game. I will defend women’s access to contraception and a woman’s right to choose and fight any legislation or executive action that would allow insurance companies to discriminate against women.

[Update 10/14/17: Doug Jones website currently says:
Millions of Americans have obtained health care through the Affordable Care Act. Reasonable people on both sides of the aisle know the law, which brought the level of uninsured Americans to a record low, needs improvement.
However, I am disturbed about repeated efforts to repeal the bill or weaken it, leaving as many as 32 million more Americans without insurance, driving up rates for others and likely leading to the closure of more rural health care facilities vital in many regions of Alabama. That is a nonstarter. As a senator, I would adamantly oppose any proposal that does not protect Alabamians from rising healthcare costs, higher premiums, and out-of-pocket expenses while ensuring those with preexisting conditions cannot be denied coverage or charged more.
I believe:
  • Health care is a right, not a privilege limited to the wealthy and those with jobs that provide coverage.
  • Coverage must meet basic standards that protect individuals. Nobody should have to sell their house because a family member has cancer. A “cheap” plan that won’t cover preventative care, serious illness, pharmaceutical coverage, mental health, maternity care, birth control or other care for women is a sham. So is a policy that nobody can afford.
  • No woman should be denied coverage of services based on the religious beliefs of her employer.
  • We must ensure that quality health care is available not only in our cities, but in rural areas as well. As pointed out recently by U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, “Alabama’s rural hospitals have been struggling for years, largely due to inadequate reimbursements, low volume and high operating costs.” Since 2010, five rural hospitals have closed in Alabama, leaving residents without local care. As Rep. Sewell notes, “We need more robust Medicaid funding in Alabama if our rural hospitals are to survive.”]
Will Boyd
  • Support and introduce legislation that helps fill the healthcare/Medicaid coverage gap that exists for women in Alabama
  • Support a health care program affordable to all
  • Work to lower prescription drug costs in the United States
  • Improve and protect Medicare and Medicaid
  • Promote medical malpractice reform
  • Support establishment of minimum nurse staffing ratios and prohibit “mandated overtime” in order to ensure safe patient care
  • Work to address “mandated overtime” legislation similar to the Hospital Licensing Act for airline pilots, bus drivers and train conductors—ultimately ensuring safety of those traveling by air, road and rail
  • Work with the Offices of the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use the bargaining power of 40 million Medicare beneficiaries to negotiate better drug prices while also providing beneficiaries with an option to obtain drug coverage directly from Medicare rather than a private plan
  • Support repeal of the 45 percent “trigger” which creates a fund warning and ultimately requires that cuts be made to Medicare as well as unfairly place the burden of Medicare on working people in lower income brackets
  • Repeal the income test for Medicare Part B premiums as such income testing undermines the principal of social security as seniors have already paid into Medicare based on their payroll taxes and should not be subjected to increasing premiums
  • Protect Social Security’s guaranteed benefits while also promoting individual investment accounts
  • Oppose any efforts to increase the retirement age
  • Support legislation which allows retirement anytime between 62 and full retirement age with early benefits reduced each month before full retirement age as outlined by the Social Security Administration
  • Oppose privatization of Social Security (I believe benefits should continue to be governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 which protects the rights of employment benefit plan recipients and their beneficiaries.)
Michael Hansen
Why do we spend more money than any other advanced economy in the world on health care for mediocre outcomes? It's time to get healthcare off the backs of employers and implement a truly universal health care system that guarantees coverage for everyone as a right of citizenship in a modern, civilized society. Additionally, I trust women and their doctors to make healthcare decisions that are best for them and their families.

Jason Fisher
Every Alabamian deserves access to high-quality healthcare at an affordable price.  We cannot afford to go back to a time when the insurance companies discriminate based on a pre-existing condition or charge unreasonable premiums to a vulnerable population. We must also hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for keeping the price of their drugs to a reasonable level to ensure the public good is never sacrificed in exchange for larger corporate profits.  A healthcare system that leaves large populations uninsured is not just morally reprehensible, it also is fundamentally flawed economic policy.  By improving policy coverage and incentivizing new insurers to enter underserved markets, we can further reduce personal bankruptcies, medical costs and premiums, and provide more effective patient care for better health outcomes.
Corporations and businesses can play a vital role in adjusting health care policy, cost, and outcomes.  Moving beyond the traditional wellness program, tax incentives should be available to business and corporations that invest directly in their employee’s well-being through common-sense strategies, providing health options to the employee at their job.  Employers should be encouraged and rewarded for offering employee benefits that include having on-site fitness centers and programs for employee use, on-site registered childcare to give parents of pre-kindergarten children affordable options and convenience, employer mandated lunch breaks for salaried employees and additional paid flex-time to reduce stress, offering healthy food options in employee cafeterias or break rooms, company-sponsored health education classes that focus on increasing awareness of nutrition and preventative disease, and instituting company policies aimed at avoiding work-related stress and fatigue.
These programs will benefit the employer’s bottom line beyond the tax incentives by reducing employee turnover and lowering health care costs through realizing better health outcomes.  These programs also benefit the employee through reduced stress, better nutrition, and increased time and convenience to exercise.

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