Ulmer presents her vision for health care

Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2002

SOLDOTNA (AP) -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer has laid out her plan for health care.

If elected governor, Ulmer said Wednesday she would use the state's influence to fight rising drug costs and improve services, such as Denali KidCare and telemedicine.

While the quality of Alaska's health care has improved dramatically over the last 20 years, Ulmer said it faces new challenges. She predicted the rising cost of drugs and a chronic shortage of skilled health care workers will worsen as the baby boom generation hits retirement.

''We can't just stumble into the future,'' Ulmer told members of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, meeting this week for a statewide conference in Soldotna.

U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, the Republican candidate for governor, declined to comment on Ulmer's speech. Murkowski spokesman Dan Saddler said Murkowski would outline his health care positions at the same conference.

Ulmer is making campaign stops from Homer to Fairbanks.

In Soldotna, she unveiled her health care agenda -- the fifth position paper she has issued in the campaign. The others deal with family, economic development, education and fisheries. The sixth, on the state's budget gap, is scheduled for next week.

She held up Denali KidCare, initiated by the Knowles administration in 1999, as an example of success. The program provides health insurance to children of the working poor.

Ulmer pledged that as governor, she would join with other states and several major corporations that are trying to reform national drug patent laws to make generic drugs more available. The state's Medicaid program could save $1.5 million a year if the reforms are successful, Ulmer said.

Ulmer said telemedicine, which uses Internet technology to let specialists examine patients from a great distance, could flourish in the near future.

''Let's face it, the difference between delivering services in Rhode Island and Alaska is pretty dramatic,'' she said.

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