Knowles Outlines Measures
For Health Care For The Uninsured
Calls for National Action
to Address Looming Health Care Crisis
May 21, 2004
Anchorage, AK Saying mounting health care costs and lack
of affordable health insurance are among the top issues facing
Alaska and the nation, US Senate candidate Tony Knowles on Monday
offered his proposals to address this growing problem. Knowles
spoke about the issue at a community health fair in the Mountain
View section of Anchorage at the culmination of national "Cover
the Uninsured Week."
"In the most prosperous,
industrialized country in the world, with the best available
health care and the highest per capita health care spending,
we are woefully behind in caring for our citizens," Knowles
said. "An accident, a chronic illness, a devastating disease
can destroy your savings along with your health. Health insurance
remains the single best vaccination against the physical, mental,
financial and human cost of an assault against our health. Unfortunately,
our nation is just as unprepared to deal with this growing problem
as is the uninsured family hit by a sudden life-threatening illness."
Knowles said the magnitude
of this problem is staggering:
- Nearly 44 million Americans
are uninsured 15 percent of the population; including 109,000
Alaskans that have no health insurance 18 percent of Alaska's
- More than 25,000 Alaska children
and 9 million American children are uninsured 12 percent
of the 18-and-under population.
- Nationwide, 58 percent of
employers provide insurance. In Alaska, less than 46 percent
of employers and only 32 percent of small businesses provide
- Faced with higher insurance
costs, business is shifting the burden to employees through higher
premiums and bigger deductibles. Losing your job usually means
losing insurance and health care costs and insurance premiums
are rising outstripping inflation and wage growth.
"The uninsured are our
neighbors, relatives, friends, and even co-workers, and Washington
DC could solve the problem if they wanted to," Knowles said.
"For years, Congress has shown no such inclination. I'm
not satisfied to sit by while Washington applies a bandage to
a deep festering wound in our health system. I applaud the sponsors
of Cover the Uninsured Week for putting this issue in the spotlight
and stressing the need for action.
"Lack of insurance is
a big problem, but it is solvable. I know because, as governor,
we took positive steps to cover Alaska's uninsured. There's
a lot more we can do, as a country and a society with a moral
imperative to consider the needs of a huge segment of the population,"
Knowles said. Programs and proposals suggested by Knowles:
EXPAND DENALI KIDCARE which
brought No-Cost coverage to 30,000 children and pregnant women,
using federal Child Health Insurance Program funds with state
management and match. "Denali KidCare covered kids at 200
percent of the federal poverty level until last year when the
Murkowski administration tightened eligibility to exclude hundreds
of lower middle class Alaska families. Now, Alaska has the dubious
distinction of being among a few states cutting kids," Knowles
EXPAND MEDICAID and MEDICARE
to cover a large segment of the uninsured through buy-ins and
expanded eligibility. "As governor, we expanded Medicaid
eligibility in rural Alaska ," Knowles said. "How ironic
that we arrange to cover uninsured children through programs
like Denali KidCare, but leave their low-income parents without
coverage of their health care needs. Let's bring them into
the Medicaid system. Medicare still needs reform to allow Americans
to buy into the Medicare system at age 55."
ENCOURAGE MORE COMMUNITY HEALTH
CENTERS to provide primary care to the uninsured. These clinics
charge based on ability to pay and 40 percent of their patients
are uninsured. We need to keep the doors open at these federally
funded centers and expand their reach.
ALLOW BUSINESS TAX CREDITS
that provide incentives to companies to offer health insurance
to their workers. This tax offset would make employee insurance
affordable for small business and the self-employed.
COMMON INSURANCE POOLS would
create large groups to spread the risk and provide comprehensive
affordable insurance plans to small business and the self-employed.
Existing government insurance plans should open their doors
to buy-ins by others. The health plan Congress gives itself should
be good enough for the rest of American citizens.
LOWER HEALTH CARE and DRUG
COSTS by streamlining public and private health care bureaucracy
and exploring ways to reduce medical costs. "We lowered
drug costs at Pioneer Homes through bulk purchase agreements,"
Knowles said. "We can do this nationwide once we get rid
of government restrictions on negotiating prices with drug companies.
We can stop drug price-gouging by permitting drug imports from
Canada ; ending tax deductions on drug advertising; and requiring
that medicine developed at taxpayer expense be sold at reasonable
SUPPORT VOLUNTEER HEALTH CARE
PROVIDER NETWORKS like one being organized in Anchorage as a
stopgap measure until Washington embraces a systemic solution.
"The Anchorage Access to Health Care Coalition is recruiting
doctors to each provide free services to a dozen uninsured residents
annually," Knowles said. "We should applaud these volunteer
physicians and return the favor with tax credits. They and the
sponsors of this Anchorage effort recognize the problem is so
serious that it can't wait for a federal fix."
Knowles said we can neutralize
the cost of covering the uninsured, in part, by ending tax breaks
for the super-rich, reducing medical and drug costs, creating
larger common insurance pools and letting the uninsured buy into
existing programs like Medicaid and Medicare.
"Many prestigious, non-partisan
scientific and research organizations in America have recognized
that one of the most serious ills in our health care system is
that so many Americans live outside the system without
insurance and without care," Knowles concluded. "I've
offered a blueprint for success in dealing with the problem.
We've taken steps in Alaska toward better and broader health
coverage. Our prosperous nation can and should do more before
the lack of health insurance devastates any more working families.
I believe health care is a right not a luxury, not a privilege
and not an issue to ignore any longer. Let's take care of Americans
and Alaskans - including the uninsured."
Source of News Release:
Tony Knowles for US Senate
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