(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee, discussed some of Washington state’s top health care challenges with Senator Tom Daschle, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). As Secretary of HHS, Senator Daschle will lead President Obama’s efforts to reform health care in America and will work with Senator Murray on meeting the needs of patients, providers, and health care workers in Washington state.
Health Care Workforce
During the hearing Senator Murray asked Senator Daschle about ways to expand the health care workforce. Washington state faces critical shortfalls among doctors, nurses, and other health care workers that have driven up costs and resulted in limited access to care for patients.
“There is a direct correlation between the lack of providers and cost,” Murray said today. “If there isn’t a doctor to go to or nurses available, it drives up the cost of health care. And it isn’t just doctors, its nurses and the vast array of health care providers. When you go back to young people in high school who are going to hopefully go into these professions, very few of them know about these profession or are beginning to prepare in the right way.”
Senator Murray also asked Senator Daschle about changing the way in which health care providers are reimbursed for providing Medicare. Currently, federal law requires Medicare payments to physicians to be made annually using a formula known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). This system is based on an outdated scale derived from cost of living and health care costs among states as well as patient utilization. Washington state is among the lowest on this scale due to the state’s historically low cost of proving healthcare, making the system unfair to patients and healthcare providers in the state.
“It’s an outdated system that basically incentivizes people using patient utilization rather than looking at health outcomes for reimbursement,” Murray said. “This is impacting a lot of physicians who are no longer seeing Medicare patients because of reimbursement rates.”