Tulsa World: Three Key Health Care Reform Issues

If there is one message I have received loud and clear during my town hall meetings this year it has been this: Our health care system needs reform. However, most people have argued the answer is not a federal government-run health care system in this country. Instead, they tell me their biggest concerns are cost and access.

While our health care system is not perfect, they argue, it is still one of the best in the world. As the old saying goes, you don't want to throw out the baby with the bath water.

So if dramatically increasing taxes and federal spending will not solve this problem what is the answer? Here are three issues that must be addressed:

A solution for the uninsured: There are approximately 47 million Americans without health insurance coverage in this country. When they become ill, they go to an emergency room where treatment and tests are dramatically more expensive, driving up the cost of health care. We must address this problem.

One option might be to provide funding for private health insurance for those Americans who do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. Sen. Tom Coburn's legislation, the Patient's Choice Act, proposes a refundable tax credit of $2,300 per individual and $5,700 per family. This would be one way to help Americans cover their health insurance costs without a complete federal government takeover of the system.

Lowered costs and maintained choice: We need to lower the cost of medical procedures and the cost of health insurance. The best way to do this is to ensure transparency in the system.

We need to allow patients to view the costs of procedures as well as the costs of insurance policies side-by-side. This will encourage competition within the market and help lower prices without putting federal bureaucrats between patients and their doctors.

Access for all Americans: Access to health care is a major issue in rural America. Right now, many Oklahomans who live in rural areas have problems getting to hospitals or doctors in order to receive the treatments they need.

One way to address this issue would be to expand the use of telemedicine technologies. Oklahoma State University sponsors a mobile clinic that drives to area towns that do not have a local hospital. Without having to drive hundreds of miles, patients can receive treatments via video from staff in conjunction with doctors and specialists. It has become a great asset to the communities it serves.

Although other important subjects should also be addressed, including preventive care and continued innovation in the medical field, I believe addressing these three issues will have the greatest impact.

I will continue to monitor all legislation being considered in Congress regarding health care and I look forward to working with my colleagues to draft a final bill that will improve our health care system in a fiscally responsible way without losing the standard of care we have now.

U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas represents Oklahoma's 3rd Congressional District.

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