The most prevalent issues with health care today boil down to two points: the cost of health care continues to rise, while finding logical efficiency within the system is becoming more difficult; and welfare spending now takes up one-third of the state’s budget. We have been working on ways to minimize costs and maximize efficiency, and this week we saw the advancement of several pieces of legislation aimed at these issues making their way through the General Assembly.
Two of the most costly issues regarding health care are frequent and unnecessary visits to the emergency room, and patients who don’t show up at their primary care appointments. One may not think these are particularly important, but consider this: the cost of lost appointments to time, staffing and overhead add up when patients make appointments and simply don’t bother to show up. In addition, many people seek treatment in an emergency room when the problem may be handled much less expensively with their own doctor or at an urgent care clinic.
This week, Senate Bill 608 was advanced in the upper chamber. This bill will authorize MO HealthNet providers to charge a minimal fee for missed appointments and create an $8.00 emergency room co-pay system. This will hopefully encourage patients to keep their appointments to their physicians, and to think about visiting their own doctors before going to the ER. Studies show this has the potential to save up to $18 million in Medicaid costs alone if all states had similar measures.
Another piece of legislation, Senate Bill 875, would allow doctors to substitute an FDA-approved “interchangeable” biologic product, or “biosimilar” for a prescription, much the same way they write prescriptions for ‘generic’ drugs. Many biosimilars are already on the market, but require advance approval before the pharmacist may fill the prescription. This bill simply bypasses the approval process and will result in access to cheaper prescription costs for the patient, as well as saving the state up to $12 million in General Revenue spending.
Health care in rural areas has always been a costly and time consuming issue, especially for patients having trouble leaving their homes or living in remote areas. Senate Bill 621 would allow doctors to practice on certain patients remotely via telephone or internet connection known as Telehealth. This will expand access to specialists and advanced care without leaving their rural communities.
Finding ways to lower health care costs and making quality health care more accessible is part of our goal to use your hard-earned tax money wisely. These are just a few ways that we are working on to make Missouri a better place to live, work and raise a family.
As always, I encourage my constituents to contact me throughout the year with comments, questions or suggestions by calling my office at (573) 751-5713. To find more information about the bills I sponsor, visit www.senate.mo.gov/brown. Thank you for reading this and for your participation in state government.