Sunday, March 11, 2007

Will 21st Century Telemedicine Come to Indiana?

Improving health care for Hoosiers is one of the most important issues facing Indiana legislators. We constantly consider how to keep our citizens safer and healthier while deliberating the costs, pondering insurance plans and struggling with adequate Medicaid funding.

This year, we also have the opportunity to dramatically improve the way medical services are delivered in Indiana.

Senate Bill 489, now before the Indiana Legislature would allow Indiana to take advantage of an offer by the Federal Communications Commission to fund up to 85 percent of the cost of providing high speed internet connections to hospitals and health care facilities throughout Indiana. But to win this prize, we must act quickly and cohesively. On this issue, all legislators, Senator and Representatives, Democrats and Republicans are united.

Imagine, if you will, doctors being able to consult specialists anywhere in Indiana while you are in the office with no need for another appointment is some other city at some later date.

Imagine doctors being able to remotely examine patients in their homes, or in an extended care facility, to diagnose routine illnesses and skin ailments without requiring the patient to come to the office or emergency room.

Imagine a surgeon or emergency room physician ordering x-rays or other medical imaging and having a radiologist in another room or even another hospital interpreting those images with sophisticated computers while the patient is being treated or having surgery.

Imagine having medical bills and prescriptions transmitted directly to their destination without delay or handling or duplicating documents.

Imagine a medical records system that didn’t require patients and providers to constantly fill out paper forms and cut down tremendously on delay and errors.

A fully integrated telemedicine system could make all of this and more happen in Indiana very soon. The good news is that the technology already exists and many health care providers are already using it. The bad news is that we don’t have the fiber optics necessary throughout Indiana, especially in rural areas, to make those goals a reality.

Senate Bill 489, if it is implemented immediately, can accomplish those goals and push Hoosier health care ahead by decades.

Indiana will only have one short opportunity to move health care technology into the 21st Century. The completed application must be submitted to the FCC by May 7 in order to qualify.[*]

This is an opportunity that must not be lost. In one stroke we can:
- Make health care services quicker and easier to deliver to patients.
- Save tremendous numbers of tax dollars and insurance premiums.
- Improve the efficiency and availability or our skilled health care professionals.

The Senate unanimously passed SB 489 and the House Health Committee also passed the bill without dissent on March 7. We believe the full House of Representatives will pass the bill overwhelmingly.

The Administration has not yet taken a position on this rare opportunity. We hope they will do that soon. Indiana must take advantage of this opportunity for the future of her citizens.

[*] For detailed information re: the Rural Health Care Pilot Program:

Saturday, January 20, 2007

2007 Online Issue Poll - Updated 1/26

Each year I send out a survey asking questions about various issues that may come before the legislature. I send out post card surveys and I also make the survey available online.
These surveys never meet the test of being statistically reliable because the respondents are only those who take the time to fill out the form.
We tally the results of the mailers and the electronic results separately.
I already have over 1000 responses as of January 26, so I thought I would share those results. I’ll try to update you from time to time.

Should Indiana taxpayers pay the approximately $100 million cost for textbook rentals which are currently paid by students and their families?
Yes - 214 (21%)
No - 823 (79%)

For many years, the General Assembly gave all public schools an annual funding increase even if enrollment dropped. The funding formula was recently changed and is now based upon the number of students enrolled in each school and each student’s special needs. In the next budget, how should the General Assembly fund schools?
- Increase funding for all school corporations regardless of changes in enrollment and the number of children with special needs - 61 (9%)
- Base funding for each school corporation on the number of students enrolled with increases for children with special needs - 401 (62%)
- Limit increased funding to about the rate of inflation - 183 (28%)

The cost to provide full-day kindergarten to all children is approximately $200 million per year. In the upcoming budget, should the state make the funding of full-day kindergarten a top state budget priority?
Yes - 229 (24%)
No - 709 (76%)

Do you support school choice?
Yes - 755 (66%)
No - 396 (34%)

Currently, municipal elections are held in odd-numbered years, when there are no other elections. Should municipal elections be held in a year when state and federal elections take place?
Yes - 698 (65%)
No - 376 (35%)

The FDA has expressed concern that a significant number of imported drugs are counterfeit and could threaten patient safety, yet many Hoosiers have saved money by ordering drugs from outside the U.S. Should Indiana allow citizens to import prescription drugs from outside the U.S.?
Yes, if approved by the FDA - 451 (58%)
Yes, regardless of FDA approval - 263 (34%)
No - 67 ( 9%)

Should the cigarette tax be increased in an effort to decrease smoking in Indiana?
Yes - 687 (65%)
No - 367 (35%)

A legislative study committee of local government is considering moving township government responsibilities (poor relief, property assessment, and fire protection) into county operations as a way to reduce operating costs. Do you favor eliminating the township level of government?
Yes - 424 (49%)
No - 445 (51%)

Indiana’s economy is becoming more service-oriented, yet the state sales tax currently applies only to the purchase of goods. This makes it more difficult each year for the state to raise as much revenue through the sales tax and could result in the need for a higher rate in the future in order to generate sufficient revenue. In an effort to maintain a strong sales tax base and lessen the need for future sales tax increases, should the legislature:
- Expand the sales tax to cover most services as well as goods, exempting medical services and raw materials used in production and use the revenue for new state programs and services, such as full-day kindergarten - 143 (29%)
- Expand the sales tax to cover most services, but reduce the rate so no additional revenue is generated - 118 (24%)
- Keep the current sales tax system - 501 (66%)

In order to complete the I-69 extension from Indianapolis to Evansville in a timely fashion, should the state fund the project by making the extension a toll road?
Yes - 492 (43%)
No - 643 (57%)

Do you favor raising the minimum age to 17 to receive a license to drive?
Yes - 778 (64%)
No - 447 (36%)