WASHINGTON – With an eye on the future,Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist proposed a health care plan that he said will use a Web-based records system to reduce costs and medical errors.
At a National Press Club luncheon Tuesday,Frist,R-Tenn.,said he would like to see his proposed transformation of the health care sector in place by 2014.
“Today’s health care system is poorly equipped to meet these challenges of 2014,the challenges that the future will bring,” Frist said.
Frist spoke not only of the need to prepare the health care sector for the future but also of his concerns about providing all Americans with affordable and accessible health care.
The guiding principle for 2014 is that “all Americans should have the security of lifelong,affordable access to health care,” Frist said.
Frist said his plan is patient-centered,consumer-driven and health care provider-friendly. In addition,by placing more of the responsibility with individuals,Frist said individuals would be empowered to demand better care.
“They hold the system accountable,and they are held accountable,” Frist said.
The Tennessee senator,a heart surgeon whose family founded one of the nation's largest hospital chains,painted a picture in which health records are accessible on the Internet,as well as privacy-protected. Although Frist referred to privacy protection as a “huge challenge,” he said it is an achievable goal.
By moving medical records online,more Americans could readily obtain their health information because Frist said nearly all Americans will be computer literate and connected in 2014.
Even if all Americans have access to the Internet,Frist said government still has a significant role to play in establishing communication standards in a private system.
“Everybody has their different computer,and none of the computers can talk today,” Frist said. “The government must establish those standards within the next 24 months.”
By having information readily accessible,Frist said people can be “prudent shoppers” when it comes to health care.
Along with improving health care,Frist cited the need to increase the equality of health care while accommodating a growing and more diverse population. Frist said health disparities “run rampant” today.
“The bottom line is we can do better,” Frist said.
Although Frist's plan is admittedly optimistic,he insisted it is realistic.
“As a physician,comes back to the Hippocratic Oath: You don't want to overpromise to patients,” Frist said.
Frist defended last year's Medicare prescription drug law that has been criticized as confusing,saying that seniors are much better off today. Prescription discount cards became available this spring,and the Medicare provision goes into effect in two years.
“I can look a senior in the eye and say what we denied you two years ago,we’re not denying you now,nor will we in the future,” Frist said. “We’re going to build a system that includes that as part of it. And that’s our obligation to you.”