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All Americans should have access to affordable, quality health care. I want to reduce the rising cost of health care by providing affordable coverage to those who need it most – low income children and families, small businesses, the self-employed, and people who do not get health benefits through their job. To achieve the goal of more affordable health care, the Congress must look to the states for ideas.

The Republican philosophy that the State’s are laboratories of democracy and are where our best public policy ideas are formulated holds true in Massachusetts. Governor Romney and the Massachusetts legislature are leading the way by offering health insurance for everyone “without a government takeover and without raising taxes.” Their market-based reforms will make health insurance available to every resident of Massachusetts within the next three years.

The new Massachusetts law requires every individual in the state to purchase health insurance by July 1, 2007.  Of Massachusetts’ approximately 500,000 uninsured, about 100,000 are eligible for Medicaid. Another 200,000, who are 300 percent below the Federal Poverty Level, and are not eligible for Medicaid, will receive premium assistance on policies without a deductible on an income-based sliding scale.  Another 200,000 with incomes above 300 percent FPL will be able to purchase lower-cost policies in the private market.  Premium assistance will be financed by redirecting a portion of the $1 billion currently spent by state government on the uninsured. Failure by individuals to purchase health insurance will result in the loss of their state tax refund equal to 50 percent of an affordable health insurance premium.  Penalties will be assessed for each month without creditable coverage.

The creation of an entity called the Commonwealth Care Health Insurance Connector will allow individuals to purchase affordable plans on a pre-tax basis. The Connector will administer premium assistance for low-income individuals and facilitate employer contributions for both full-time and part-time workers and those working at more than one company. Those eligible to purchase through the Connector are non-working individuals, working individuals at companies that do not offer health insurance, workers not eligible for coverage at their place of business such as part-timers, contractors and new employees, small businesses with 50 or fewer employees, and those who are self-employed

This groundbreaking legislation will also enhance the goal of greater transparency in health care costs and quality through the collection and publication of data needed by consumers to make informed decisions.  The information will allow consumers to compare the quality, track record and cost of hospitals and providers. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services have already begun providing details of the plan for review by federal Medicaid officials.

Improving Health Care for Children

Promote Affordable Health Care for Children – I will support President Bush’s nationwide, billion dollar “Cover the Kids” campaign to sign up more children for quality health care coverage. The “Cover the Kids” initiative will combine the resources of the Federal Government, the States, and community organizations, including faith-based organizations, with the goal of covering all SCHIP-eligible children within the next two years.

Promoting Affordable Health Care for Every American

To address the root causes of high health care costs and help provide affordable health care to all American families, I will work in the next congress to:

Expand Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) - Tax credits for low-income families and individuals to purchase health insurance, or to purchase a low-premium, high-deductible health plan and an HSA. Families will receive up to $2,000 for their premiums and $1,000 cash to put in their HSAs to help meet the deductible. Individuals will receive up to $700 for their premiums and $300 for their HSAs.

Promote a Health Savings Account Tax Credit to Help Small Business Employees -Tax credits for HSA contributions to help individuals and families who work for small businesses fund their HSAs. Small businesses and their employees who set up an HSA will get a tax rebate for contributions to the HSA of up to $500 per worker with family coverage and $200 per worker with individual coverage.

Expanding Community Health Centers

I understand the needs of the uninsured in our medically underserved communities and I promise to open or expand 1,200 health center sites to serve an additional 6.1 million Americans by 2006. I will work to:

Ensure that Each of America's Poorest Communities has a Health Center - These health centers are located in medically underserved urban and rural areas where there is little access to basic health care services. They provide critical primary and preventive health care services to low-income individuals, migrant farm workers, homeless individuals, and children, regardless of their ability to pay.

I believe that technology must be used to further reduce health care costs. I fully support the following initiatives:

Promoting Health Information Technology (IT) – The Congress must take the lead on a new initiative to make electronic health records universally available within the next decade. This new initiative will improve health care quality, reduce its cost, and improve access to affordable care by applying to health care the same information technology that has transformed so many other industries. Health IT will also help eliminate medical mistakes, leading to increased quality and safety for patients.

Fighting Health Care Fraud and Waste - President Bush signed a Medicare bill that will cut wasteful spending out of the program, saving seniors and taxpayers an estimated $20 billion over the next decade. The Department of Health and Human Services also has issued regulations closing a Medicaid loophole that will save the Federal Government an estimated $25 billion. The President has proposed saving another $24 billion over the next ten years by reducing states' Medicaid cost-shifting to the Federal Government.

Enhancing Long-Term Care Insurance

As Americans continue to live longer, long-term care has become an increasingly important issue. I understand that the growing need for long-term care calls for planning both by individuals and by Government. In this area, heroic sacrifices are being made by millions of families who care for their mothers and fathers as their parents cared for them.

Tax Deduction for Long-Term Care – I support a new above-the-line tax deduction that individuals could claim for long-term care insurance premiums.

Additional Tax Exemption for Home Caregivers of Family Members. I believe that individuals caring for an ill family member at home, such as an adult taking care of an elderly parent, should be able to claim the family member as an additional personal exemption on their federal taxes


Sherman Parker

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