05.22.07

Whitehouse Delivers First Speech in Series on Health Reform Legislation

Freshman Senator Calls for Quality Reform, Health IT Infrastructure, Best Practices

Washington, D.C. - In the first of a planned week-long series of addresses on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) today outlined critical challenges facing America's health care system and solutions he has proposed in the first legislation he has authored since taking office.

"I have heard from countless Rhode Islanders who have struggled to pay for their health care, and who live in fear of losing coverage on which they and their families depend," Whitehouse said. "I've met nurses frustrated and heartbroken that they must spend so much time filling out paperwork, and so little time caring for patients. And I've talked with families whose lives and health were shaken by terrifying medical errors - misplaced paperwork, mistaken diagnoses - that should have been totally avoidable."

Whitehouse unveiled his first bills at a press conference yesterday at the Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP)'s Family Health Services center in Cranston, Rhode Island. The trio of measures are aimed at encouraging health quality reforms, building a national health IT infrastructure, and linking health care payments to health care quality.

In his remarks this morning, Whitehouse noted that the annual cost of the health care system exceeds $2 trillion - a spending level that may soon double - and that America spends 16 percent of its gross domestic product on health care, more than any other industrialized nation and double the average in the European Union. More than 46 million Americans lack health insurance.

"Our current health care system is so complex, and costs so much, yet so often does not provide patients with the quality of care they desperately need," Whitehouse said. "If we can reduce the cost of the underlying system by improving its performance, it will make the solutions easier for financing the system more sensibly and expanding access to all Americans."

Today, Whitehouse plans to introduce the Quality Reform Expansion and Savings Act of 2007, creating two-year federal grants for local organizations pursuing health quality reform in areas ranging from electronic record-keeping, to early prevention and detection of illness, to efforts to expand health care coverage.

Later this week, he will introduce the National Health Information Technology and Privacy Advancement Act of 2007, to establish a private, non-profit corporation tasked with developing a national, interoperable, secure health information technology system, and the Improved Medical Decision Incentive Act of 2007, allowing states to establish "best practice" guidelines for treating illnesses or conditions.

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