Martinez: Health care needs help

By Lisa Greene, Times Staff Writer
Published February 21, 2008

TAMPA - Too many Americans are uninsured and there aren't enough doctors to take care of them, Sen. Mel Martinez said Wednesday at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute.

The nation's health care problems will become even more critical as baby boomers age, said Martinez, a Republican.

"We are going to be putting incredible demands on the health care system," he said.

Government should not run health care, Martinez said, but should help people get health care by making health insurance more affordable. Tax credits for people buying health insurance would help, along with tax changes to make individual policies easier to buy, not just those sponsored by employers, he said.

Martinez also said he's worried about a growing shortage of doctors and nurses.

"We need to look at the incredible shortages our state already faces, particularly in certain specialties," he said.

Florida needs to train more graduate medical students, called residents, to help turn the tide, he said. Because residents often stay in the area where they train, Florida needs more residencies, state medical leaders say.

Martinez also wants tougher penalties for Medicare fraud. About $60-billion is lost each year, he said, an amount that could help provide care for the uninsured instead.

As Martinez spoke, visitors to Moffitt were greeted by two giant inflatable rats at the entrance. Two men handing out leaflets there said they were protesting the hospital contractor's decision to hire nonunion subcontractors.