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Washington, D.C. – Tax-deductible health insurance policies, regional healthcare pools, affordable new insurance options, more community health centers, medical liability reform and easier access to existing healthcare programs are just a few of the proposals U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and fellow members of the Senate Republican Task Force on Health Care Costs and the Uninsured unveiled today at a news conference.

Enzi and task force colleagues including Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, have been working intensely for the last six months to define problems with the U.S. healthcare system and their root causes, reviewing existing proposals and developing new solutions. Enzi is a senior member of the HELP Committee.

Enzi outlined a few of the task force proposals and how they relate to Wyoming.

"We should allow individuals to deduct the full cost of the premiums they pay for high-deductible insurance policies if they set up one of the new health savings accounts. People who work for large corporations already get this type of tax break. We should make it easier for people to sign up for public insurance programs like Wyoming EqualityCare and Kid Care," said Enzi. "As an incentive to open health savings accounts, we should defer student loan interest for recent college graduates. We need to build more new community health centers like the one in Casper, and make it easier for doctors to volunteer their services at free clinics and other sites that communities use to help their neighbors in need."

Health care costs are increasing faster than any other basic service in American society. Today, 44 million Americans lack health insurance at any given point during the year, and between 20 to 30 million of them are chronically uninsured. About 80,000 of the 44 million uninsured live in Wyoming.

The task force identified five goals that guided its mission. The principles include addressing rising costs and enhancing access to affordable health care and insurance, targeting insurance assistance to those who need it most, strengthening the safety net of care, building on what is already working well and empowering the health care consumer.

The task force estimated its recommendations could result in annual savings to our nation's health care system of $137 billion, insurance coverage for 17 to 25 million more Americans and access to "safety-net" care for 5 million more uninsured individuals.

Enzi said like the development of problems in the healthcare system, it will take time to work through and implement these solutions. Some of the task force proposals have already been sponsored by Enzi and other members of Congress and endorsed by President Bush, but have suffered in this election year climate.

"The problem of rising healthcare costs did not appear overnight, and we won't be able to solve it overnight. I'm going to push for the Senate to act on these proposals in this Congress, the next Congress, and for however long you allow me to serve you as one of your United States senators," Enzi said.