Senator John Thune, Weekly ColumnThe high cost of health care weighs heavily on many families and small business owners across South Dakota. We need to create more cost-effective and efficient health care, and I expect the Senate to tackle this issue head-on this fall.
Ensuring access to quality affordable health care in rural areas like South Dakota is a challenging task. As a member of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, I am working to create a rural health infrastructure that can provide quality care.
I would like to see the Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2005 passed. I am pleased to be a co-sponsor of this bill that would establish association health plans (AHPs), which allow small-business owners to band together across state lines to buy health insurance as a group. This group purchasing power helps businesses buy health insurance at an affordable price by allowing smaller businesses the same advantages currently enjoyed by larger companies.
I am also a co-sponsor of the Health Technology to Enhance Quality Act of 2005, which promotes the creation of interoperable standards for health information technology (IT). Utilizing health IT will create efficient and cost-effective health care in our state.
Of course one of the biggest concerns for all of us is the rising cost of prescription drugs. I am a co-sponsor of the Pharmaceutical Market Access Act of 2005, which would allow individual consumers to import safe and affordable prescription drugs from FDA-inspected facilities in Canada and other permitted countries. If enacted, this bill would lower the cost of prescription drugs for all Americans by promoting fair competition in drug markets.
In addition to these good pieces of legislation, I am introducing the Fostering Independence Through Technology (FITT) Act of 2005. In an era of modern medicine, technology has led to the development of remote monitoring systems that individuals can use to check their vital signs - such as blood pressure and heart rate – and relay those results back to the doctors and nurses monitoring their care.
The FITT Act of 2005 would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish pilot projects across the country to provide incentives for home health agencies to buy remote monitoring technology and place it in the homes of qualified Medicare beneficiaries.
By equipping beneficiaries with the tools to conduct self-checks, the FITT Act would reduce the need to send home health aides to beneficiaries’ homes on a daily basis, thus lowering the cost of care and reducing Medicare expenditures. Most importantly, the home monitoring systems would ensure the accuracy and quality of care beneficiaries are receiving.
Finally, the FITT Act would help instill a greater sense of independence among home health care beneficiaries, who now have to rely on visits from home health aides in their daily lives.
It is my hope that these bills will be passed by Congress and signed into law to ease some of the financial burden South Dakotans experience when addressing their medical needs