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Candidates are appealing to voters on the platform of health care

Health care issues on gubernatorial candidates’ minds

As baby boomers age, and the percentage of older Mississippians continues to increase, gubernatorial candidates are appealing to voters on the platform of health care.

Currently, the percentage of Mississippians over the age of 65 is 12%. By the year 2015, the percentage will jump to approximately 15%. Repercussions of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, which reduces payments under Medicare to all hospitals in the U.S. by $115 billion dollars over five years, has fueled concern about who will foot the balance of medical bills.

Lt. Gov. Musgrove (D-Batesville) has said that health care should be about common sense and compassion — not conflict.

“Health care decisions should be made by patients and their doctors based on the patients’ medical needs — not financial considerations. No industry, no matter how rich or powerful, should be able to come between the patient and doctor.”

A government-run health care system is not needed, said Musgrove.

“But there is nothing wrong with using the law to protect the right of Mississippi patients to see their own doctors,” he said.

Musgrove referred to a number of bills regarding health care interests he supported that “will help level the playing field and promote fairness by protecting patients’ rights against arbitrary and sometimes needless government and private sector interference,” he said.

Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Jim Roberts, Jr. (D-Pontotoc), who primarily represented small businesses as an attorney prior to years on the bench also cited health care among his top issues. Hesaid he was appalled at the cost of prescription medications for the poor and elderly in Mississippi.

“I read in a recent news report that people who are not participants in a managed care organization are paying as much as 1,600% more for prescription medications than people enrolled in managed care organizations. As governor, I would propose legislation to reduce this disparity and end the unfair costs that are being passed on to Mississippi’s poor and elderly.”

Roberts said the entire managed care system needs to be addressed.

“Not only does the state have the responsibility to ensure that all managed care organizations operate on a level playing field, but the state also must ensure that participants in managed care organizations are treated fairly,” he said.

The goal of government regulations for patients should be affordable health care with a choice of physicians, guaranteed by interest from the tobacco settlement trust fund, said former Lt. Gov. Eddie Briggs (R-Canton).

“Affordable health care with a choice of physicians can be accomplished with reform of the state insurance department,” said Briggs.

The government needs to play a minimal role, he said.

“We need to, as a government, stay involved to the degree we regulate, but at the same time, we don’t need to use up valuable resources by micro-managing,” Briggs said. “The government needs to play the most minimal role possible.”

From a patient’s perspective, Briggs said nursing home care has become more complicated than necessary.

“The government’s role in nursing homes needs to be minimized,” he said.

Dan M. Gibson (R-Crystal Springs), former mayor of Crystal Springs, said providing health care is not a priority of government.

“Mississippi and the U.S. provide some of the best private health insurance in the world,” Gibson said. “However, government has intervened over the past many years regarding the health of senior citizens, children and the truly needy.”

Medicaid is a service provided by the state that many of our citizens have come to depend upon, Gibson said.

“Expanding dependency is not one of my goals,” Gibson said. “As governor, I will work closely with the Legislature on this issue.”

During the past legislative session, when children’s health and a children’s health program were debated, many proposed ideas had merit and validity, Gibson said.

“I plan to follow up with more in depth research and discussion on children’s health needs,” he said.

Promoting competition may be the answer, he said.

“Health insurance and health providers are many and varied in our great state,” Gibson said. “Promoting more competition among these is something I truly believe in. This will allow for better prices as well as better producers. I don’t believe in adding taxation and excessive regulations to individual doctors, private clinics or major health care providers.”

Former U.S. Rep. Mike Parker (R-Brookhaven) said health care is an important issue for everyone these days as costs keep rising and care keeps shrinking. In Congress, millions of dollars were allocated to help Mississippi hospitals.

“As governor, I’ll work to streamline our health care system so that more people can get the care they need at a cost they can afford,” he said.

State Rep. Charlie Williams (R-Senatobia) could not be reached for comment on this story.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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