Opinion

Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman submitted a healthcare reform report today to the President-elect's Transition Health Policy Team and U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer based on healthcare reform ideas he developed with 22 of Long Island's preeminent healthcare leaders. The eight-page report was prepared in consultation with Senator Schumer and summarizes the discussions and ideas garnered from a holiday Healthcare Community Discussion hosted and moderated by Comptroller Weitzman on December 22. The report will be passed onto Senator Tom Daschle, the Health & Human Services Secretary-designate. Senator Daschle and his team will be reviewing the submissions from healthcare reform gatherings throughout the country.

"This historic meeting was an opportunity for a cross-section of healthcare experts from Long Island to have a voice in the future of the nation's healthcare plan," Weitzman said.

"This is an extraordinary report and I commend Comptroller Weitzman for his dedication to this critical issue," Senator Schumer said. "Reforming our health care system is complex but urgently needed. Not only will better health care improve our quality of life and longevity, but the rising cost of care is a pressing economic concern as rising health care costs place an enormous burden on families and local governments alike. My office will be working closely with the President-elect and his Cabinet during this process and I will be sure that this report makes it to Senator Daschle's desk. "

Late last year President-elect Barack Obama had asked the American people to host holiday discussions and offer suggestions for a health care system that provides quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans. Senator Schumer, chair of the Senate Joint Economic Committee, will have a significant role in healthcare reform.

Comptroller Weitzman's Health Care Community Discussion invitees included health care providers, health care consumers, health care attorneys and business and union leaders. The group was asked to produce some viable health care reform ideas for the incoming administration in Washington to pursue. The report can be found on the comptroller's website at http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/comptroller/index.html

"Long Island is home to some of the top names in the healthcare industry," said Weitzman. "I thought this request from our President-elect was a wonderful opportunity to put those people together in one room and draw on some of their best ideas. We agreed on a majority of issues and our report contains ideas worthy of consideration by the administration.

All 22 healthcare experts agreed the existing health care system is broken and that action needs to be taken on a national level to ensure that all Americans are receiving the quality care that they deserve.

"Access to quality health care is a basic right of all Americans," Weitzman said. "All of us in attendance agreed that there should be a healthcare program in place that would provide access to health insurance for everyone."

However, ideas on how to implement that health program varied. Ideas included: A mandatory health insurance program that would require all Americans to have some level of insurance; possible expansion of the already existing Medicare health care program and implementing a new program as a sweeping reform of the system.

Weitzman said that all health care experts in attendance agreed that long term care needs to be included in any comprehensive program, as it accounts for a large portion of the national health care costs; and they agreed that prescription drug coverage also needed to be included in the program.

The group also discussed how a national reform initiative would be paid for; the role of employers in funding costs; how to address racial disparities in delivering quality healthcare to all; the need to modernize the health care delivery system; and how to eliminate many of the "high cost-drivers" of health care, such as insurance fraud and the high cost of malpractice insurance for doctors and hospitals.

"I believe that this discussion was a great beginning, and that this group of individuals brought fresh ideas to the table," Weitzman said. "I am now handing the report off to Senator Schumer, who will see to it that some of the ideas will be used to create a new healthcare system that works for our entire nation."

Health care issues have always been at the forefront of Weitzman's policy initiatives, both as county comptroller and during the 35 years he spent in the health care field. As comptroller, he has successfully found ways to reduce health care costs for the county and its taxpayers. Weitzman created the Nassau RX card, a prescription discount card that has saved Nassau's residents over $10 million, and most recently, along with the Nassau County Executive, he successfully worked with the State to reduce the health insurance premiums in the NYSHIP, saving the County, State and other governments over $272 million.


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