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Sen. Murray: qualified workforce integral to health care
While health care reform is important to most Americans, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is concerned about not having enough health care workers to meet future demand.
"We cannot provide meaningful, comprehensive health care reform without a qualified health care workforce," she said.
Murray spoke to doctors, nurses and administrators at Harrison Medical Center's Bremerton campus July 1 on the subject of health care reform and, more specifically, the state of health care's future.
There are approximately 830,000 people in Washington with no health coverage at all. Those who do have coverage are concerned they could lose that coverage due to the economy and people with great coverage and income are feeling the effects of it in the premiums they are paying.
"Right now, a family of four is paying an additional $1,000 in premiums each year to pay for all of those people who don't have health care," she said.
And those premiums are continuing to climb at a rate three times faster than salaries, according to Murray.
Even if health care coverage was provided to all Americans, the next issue, she said, is a shortage of qualified health care professionals.
As part of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Murray said she is working to make changes to the health care system itself by creating incentives for students to go into high demand fields such as primary care.
"A lot of our students who go to medical school are looking to more lucrative specialty fields," Murray said. "Why? To pay for the cost of medical (school)."
Murray said she added provisions to the HELP bill to encourage students to go into higher-demand fields. Loan repayment programs, scholarships and grants are all part of that plan.
Murray said she also created a national advisory commission of health care experts that is to advise congress about the programs that are working best across the country.
"Doing health care reform without workers is like building schools and not hiring any teachers," she said.