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State making health care better
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In his newest documentary, controversial filmmaker Michael Moore takes on the U.S health care system. The movie “Sicko” is Moore’s attempt to unite people of all political leanings to improve the health care system that he suggests is too focused on making profits and not enough on caring for the ill.  

Aside from the war in Iraq, and possibly illegal immigration, no other subject is getting more attention from Presidential candidates than reforming our nation’s health care system.  

The Georgia legislature has recognized for some time now the importance of reforming the health care system and has attempted to make significant changes over the past few years.  

Three years ago, Gov. Sonny Perdue pointed out in his budget address that for all the new revenue the state was taking in, more than half was going toward offsetting health care costs. This trend was obviously unsustainable and had to be addressed.  

The most significant thing we did three years ago was to address the issue of tort reform. Doctors were simply being sued out of business with frivolous lawsuits. Malpractice insurance for some doctors was either outrageously priced or unavailable altogether. Many doctors found themselves in the unenviable position of practicing “defensive medicine” forcing them to order unnecessary lab tests and perform unnecessary procedures just to avoid potential lawsuits. As a result health care costs were skyrocketing. With sweeping tort reform changes from the legislature, these inequities were addressed and our state was made more competitive for doctors to practice without the fear of frivolous lawsuits.    

Last year we became the final state in the nation to allow advanced practice registered nurses the authority to prescribe certain medications under the supervision of a doctor. Although implementation of this law has been slow, it allows for greater health care accessibility for our citizens, particularly in rural areas where doctors are scarce.  

One of the most dominating issues we faced this past session was that of health care insurance for our children, called PeachCare. Funding for this enormously successful program comes from the federal grant program known as State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and is intended to cover those families who are above the federal poverty line and not eligible for Medicaid. Because Georgia has chosen to make this program available for those families between 150-235 percent above the federal poverty line we have been able to include more of our citizens and keep them off of the Medicaid rolls where the federal match is less.  When federal funding for SCHIP was running short, Georgia was being penalized for having less uninsured children than other states who only covered families up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line. With help from our congressional delegation, we were able to secure additional federal funding to continue this exceptional program.

After many years of debate, we passed laws allowing optometrists to prescribe certain antibiotics to treat eye infections. This too will increase health care accessibility and hopefully lower costs.  

Also this session a tremendous amount of work was undertaken to address the certificate of need (CON) process in our state. This very difficult and important work is necessary to reform the antiquated and complex system that governs competition between our doctors and hospitals. While striving to keep our rural hospital system viable and operating, we are attempting to allow more competition in our state’s health care system. Although we were disappointed that more of the reforms did not pass this year, changes must be made in order for our state’s health care system to improve and therefore the process will continue next year.                      

There’s no question that our health care system needs to be reformed both on a national and state level. However, to those pundits that suggest the system is a failure, I would submit that the U.S. health care system is the best in the world and here in Georgia we’re working to make it even better.