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WORDS FROM WASHINGTON

Health care access needs to be expanded

As a member of the bipartisan Rural Health Care Coalition, one of my top priorities is making it easier and more affordable for Americans to take advantage of all that our health care system has to offer. Too many Central Washington residents find it difficult to afford the health care they need for themselves and their families.

I support proposals to increase health care choices, make health costs tax deductible and expand Health Savings Accounts that help families save. Tax free Health Savings Accounts can be used to pay for health care expenses not covered by insurance. An individual can make tax-free contributions to a Health Savings Account and withdraw from it as they see fit for qualified health expenses like physicals, health screenings, prescription drugs, dental and eye care, long-term care and retiree health insurance.

As a former small business owner, I understand how expensive it can be for small businesses to offer health benefits to their employees. Small businesses should be allowed to band together and purchase health benefits for their workers at the same lower rates that large corporations can.

Regulations should be reduced so that doctors and nurses can focus more on patients, not paperwork. And Congress must limit unnecessary lawsuits that are driving up the cost of health care for everyone.

Here in Central Washington, we're fortunate to have a network of quality hospitals and health care centers. We must ensure that Medicare and Medicaid payments to our rural health care providers are fair, and explore new ways to draw doctors and nurses to our local communities.

The last thing Congress should do is cut health care choices and move towards a one-size fits all government run system. Putting the federal government in charge of your family's health care would result in more bureaucracy, higher costs, longer waits and fewer options. The best solutions allow more health care choices and greater personal control over health care spending decisions.

- Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's Fourth Congressional District.

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