Working to make health care more accessible and affordable
Column by Bob Goodlatte
Currently, more than 47 million Americans are without health insurance, and millions more are underinsured. These statistics are simply unacceptable. It is time for real health-care reform which focuses on strategies that help Americans obtain the best-quality health care at the least cost.
Last week, as we marked Cover the Uninsured Week, I was pleased to add my support to a package of legislative proposals which represent the first steps towards meaningful health-care reform. The Making Health Care More Affordable Act ties together six important principles while working towards the goal of providing every American with more and better health-insurance choices.
First, the Making Health Care More Affordable Act provides a health-insurance tax credit of up to $2,500 for an individual and $6,000 for a family of four. This will increase the affordability of health care for those who do not have access to employer-based health insurance. This important legislation also allows individuals the option to purchase health care across state lines, helping create a national market for health insurance by having consumers find the coverage which best suits their needs.
The Making Health Care More Affordable Act creates Association Health Plans, know as AHPs. AHPs are an effective mechanism to extend coverage among the working uninsured by reducing the barriers that small employers currently face in providing coverage for their employees. AHPs are intended to increase incentives for employers to band together to purchase insurance coverage at lower rates for their employees.
Additionally, this legislation builds on the success of Health Savings Accounts, known as HSAs. Currently, these tax-free savings accounts for health expenses can be used to pay for medical costs incurred by individuals, their spouses or dependents. Our legislative proposal allows individuals to purchase health insurance through HSA contributions, allows Medicare and veteran health programs to establish and contribute to HSAs, and doubles HSA contribution limits.
Skyrocketing insurance premiums are debilitating the nation’s health-care delivery system. Liability insurers are leaving the market or raising rates to astronomical levels. This has caused physicians, hospitals and other health-care providers to severely limit their practices or to discontinue medicine altogether. The Making Health Care More Affordable Act works to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits which drive up health-care costs.
Finally, this critical legislation encourages the establishment of a nationwide health information-technology network, including electronic medical records and e-prescriptions. Health information technology can reduce medical errors, save time, money and most importantly, save lives.
Rather than dictating medical decisions from Washington, we should be concentrating our efforts on making premiums more affordable for all Americans and giving them the freedom to choose the plan that best fits their needs. It has never been more obvious that our current health-care system is flawed. The Making Health Care More Affordable Act takes the important first steps needed to reform our health-care system but more work must be done, and I look forward to supporting legislation that makes health care more affordable and more accessible for all Americans.
Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District in the United States Congress. Contact him at www.house.gov/goodlatte/emailbob.htm.