I have a ton of experience with healthcare. I was a children’s physician at Valley Medical Center, spent 12 years at Regence managing health care financing, and have a lot of experience with Kay’s illness and my own health management. Here are some of the issues facing citizens in Idaho:
- Availabity and Access to Care
We need to make sure that everyone has coverage for preventive care and to avoid financial catastrophe that may come with illness, “the luck of the draw”. The easiest and likely most cost effective is to expand Medicaid as allowed by the ACA. Uninsured families and workers have higher death rates, loose more work days to illness, and can end up costing the county and State taxpayers a bunch. Uninsurance is a particularly big issue for rural communities, hospitals and providers.
- Drug abuse prevention and treatment
Drug abuse has been a problem since before I joined the Legislature in 2004 Then it was Meth, and I wrote the bill to close down meth labs by restricting the chemicals used. As prescription abuse became more prominent, I helped create a prescription drug taskforce, now working in the Governor’s Office of Drug Policy. I also wrote the law for the Board of Pharmacy drug monitoring database. But by far and away, the best thing that could be done for drug treatment and recovery in Idaho is to make sure there is coverage (ie, expand Medicaid) for treatment and rehab services. Recovery centers are great, but treatment by addiction specialists and centers is needed too.
- Health data management
The transfer of patient records between hospitals, labs and offices is essential to rapid and correct care. Most of the doctors and hospitals participate in by the Idaho Health Data Exchange which I co-authored. I also authored the telehealth licensing and regulation legislation to improve care to rural Idaho. This is especially important for rural Idaho care.
- Controlling healthcare costs
Access to caregivers and health insurance is great, but it is costly. I helped design the Idaho Immunization Registry and the Childhood Vaccine Assessment Program which assures families and insurers of Idaho that they get the lowest vaccine prices in the nation. I helped create the Idaho Health Insurance Exchange and, as a Board member, have helped save Idaho individuals more than $12 million in administrative costs while giving them one of the most efficient exchanges in the US.
- Rural Healthcare
The presence of a physican’s office, a pharmacy and a hospital are essential for the survival of many of our rural communities as well as a great benefit to citizens living there. I have consistently pushed for programs that train (and retain) medical and mental health providers in those parts of the State that have difficulty. I also sponsored legislation to improve the EMS first responder and trauma system that should improve Idaho’s high rates of trauma death. The development of telehealth provides a real opportunity for patients and for hospitals and providers, allowing access to specialists where none are physically located.
- Behavioral Health
Prior to the Great Recession, I participated in a Legislative/Executive workgroup to redesign the Idaho Behavioral Health system. Some of those recommendations are being enacted, some are not, but the crisis in mental health and substance use persists. In the future, a more responsive Mental Health system for the State, coverage for low income Idahoans, and effective use of technology in healthcare will continue to be one of my legislative focuses to make behavioral health services available and timely.