It's great to be back here live-blogging with you on DailyKos! Today I wanted to talk to you a bit about my health care plan, and answer any other questions you may have about my campaign for U.S. Senate in Idaho.
Our race is tight -- as close as 10 points or less, based on recent polling -- and we're closing the gap. One reason for that: I'm out talking to hundreds of Idaho families every week on the campaign trail, unlike my Republican opponent, Jim Risch, who is arrogant, out-of-touch, avoiding debates, and taking the voters of Idaho for granted.
For my part, I'm working side-by-side with real Idahoans in my "Working for the Senate" campaign, having taken 35 jobs all across the state -- the most recent one as a bricklayer in Pocatello. But everywhere I go, in break-rooms and living rooms all across the state, people are worried about the economy, and especially about their health care.
More below the fold.
You wouldn't want your boss as your doctor. So why trust him or her with your health care? That's the core principle of my health care plan, an American-based system that will provide more options -- public, private, and portable -- so that you can choose a health care plan that works for you, not your job. You're not the same as your co-workers, and your boss doesn't know your needs -- so why should these factors determine your health care?
Many Idahoans are only an injury or illness away from bankruptcy, yet my Republican opponent, Jim Risch, has no plan for health care. But then, how could someone who doesn't even check his own email be up-to-date with working, middle-class Idahoans? Worse yet, he lacks any real plans in crucial areas like energy, veterans affairs, and civil liberties.
We must commit ourselves to provide quality affordable health care to all families in Idaho. You can read my full health care plan on my website, but here are the key elements:
Quality affordable health insurance for all: All Idahoans and all Americans should have access to affordable health insurance. Right now, about 15% of Americans and nearly 20% of Idahoans are without health insurance, and more than 40% of these Idaho families are in rural areas. Furthermore, 80% of those uninsured are in working families.
Personal choice in health insurance: Individuals should be allowed to keep their current health insurance. The choice of insurance products will be completely up to the individual and not made by the employer.
"Portable" health insurance: All health insurance will be 100% "portable" -- everyone can take their chosen insurance policy with them if they move, or if they change jobs.
Increase the number of physicians to increase the availability of care: Recent studies have found that unless we change things, there will be a shortage of physicians in the coming years, as baby boomers reach retirement age and as the number of insured Americans increases.
Help our physicians learn and work: We need to eliminate obstacles that discourage people from going into or practicing medicine -- allowing interest on medical school loans to be deferred until a young doctor has completed his or her medical residency, while giving additional allowances to doctors who commit to practicing in rural areas and other underserved communities.
Address our nursing shortage: Nurses are the backbone of the health care system, and Idaho is facing a nursing shortage. A survey in 2005 found that 6% of the job vacancies for registered nurses in Idaho were already going unfilled, hitting especially hard at rural hospitals and clinics.
Promote health information technology for better and less expensive care: Federal funds should be available to encourage the U.S. health care system to adopt modern information technology, including electronic health records, especially in rural and low-income communities that will have a harder time paying for the transition. Identifying and implementing health information systems will save money in the long run, and that makes it a good investment right now.
Preventative care for better health, and lower costs: Too little of our health care spending goes for preventative care and public health -- less than 4¢ of every health care dollar. Studies show that only about half of recommended preventive services are actually provided. For example, about 20% of children do not receive recommended immunizations and 60% of adults do not receive recommended colorectal cancer screening.
Really, my health care plan boils down to two main parts: Fixing the health insurance system, and increasing the quality and availability of health care itself. I look forward to pushing ahead on both fronts as Idaho's next United States Senator.
Thanks for your help. I look forward to our dialogue today.
UPDATE (2:08pm MT): I've got to sign off for now. It was great blogging with you today, and I look forward to being back again soon! Healthcare reform is so important this November and I look forward to making the changes we need as Idaho's next U.S. Senator!