Jorgensen running to expand state's health care accessibility - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Jorgensen running to expand state's health care accessibility

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Posted: Tuesday, October 21, 2008 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:03 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Don Jorgensen, a Democrat seeking a seat in House District 26, is running “because I want to do something, and that something is to improve health care.”

Primarily, Jorgensen wants to “expand access to affordable health care for all Arizonans.” Health care access “has the greatest impact on productivity,” he believes, and health care costs are a leading contributor to bankruptcy filings in Arizona.

Jorgensen wants to expand the Healthcare Group of Arizona, the provider of pooled insurance coverage for small business. The Legislature capped participation, and does not allow sole proprietors, acts Jorgensen believes are contrary to wise insurance practices.

“You lower the risk by increasing the pool,” he said. “With more business, we probably would have finished in the black. I want to expand that health care group so small businesses do have an alternative.”

He’d further eliminate a three-month “bare” period in which businesses seeking to participate in the state pool cannot provide coverage. He’d further like to expand coverage for KidsCare, three-fourths of which is paid with federal funds.

“And let’s hold insurance companies accountable to deliver what they promise,” Jorgensen said. He wants further investigation of insurance companies’ rate of “recision,” the cancellation or denial of benefits. “We don’t even know the level of abuse” in Arizona, he said.

Jorgensen wants investment in medical and nursing schools in Arizona, and encouragement of  the University of Arizona’s telemedicine program.

“Our opponents talk about wanting strictly a free market system” in health care, he said. “Health care doesn’t correspond” to the free market. “It’s the only business that wants to turn away its best customers,” he said.

As a small business owner, “we have always provided health care” for employees. “My premiums have increased 17 percent annually.”

His business, the Jorgensen Brooks Group, provides employee assistance programs in the public and private sectors worldwide. It emphasizes counseling, management and supervisor training in an attempt “to help save troubled employees” from drug and alcohol, relationship and dependency issues, “all the issues that affect the workplace.”

Jorgensen’s budget priority is the protection of the education budget as “the investment we have to make.” He does have concern that the school facilities board “doesn’t seem to be achieving its objective for the state in helping districts to fund school construction. It seems to have become another layer of bureaucracy.”

Jorgensen would further support spending on public safety and services to vulnerable populations. “They have no alternative,” he said.

Beyond that, Jorgensen would look at targeted budget cuts, “where programs are not demonstrating positive returns.” He believes Arizona can save itself money in corrections, as an example.

Budget-cutting “won’t be pretty,” he said. “It’s not a role of state representatives to micro-manage. Ask the department directors where these cuts have to come from.”

Jorgensen believes Arizona can expand its tax base by attracting new business, particularly “where that investment can produce a result. We need to rely less on taxing the residents.”

Jorgensen said “we have businesses looking to invest in Arizona,” particularly in the solar energy and high-technology sectors. The state must offer “enticements for those companies,” through research and development tax credits. He looks at Oro Valley, where Sanofi Aventis and Ventana Medical Systems are growing. “That’s why we have to invest in education, K-12, the U of A, Pima College,” Jorgensen said.

“You cut spending, you delay investments where you can, so it won’t hurt future opportunities,” he said. “You don’t stop investing, you invest carefully.”

Clean energy “as an industry has great potential,” Jorgensen said. “It becomes a product Arizona can export.”

To encourage clean energy, Jorgensen would decrease regulations for small businesses, and increase the research and development tax credit “to where we’re at least level with California,” from 11 percent to 15 percent.

Further, he said, “the state can take the lead with any new state construction,” requiring new state buildings to be fitted for maximum solar energy, water and power conservation, and efficient energy standards. He also wants incentives for developers and the private sector for building renewable energy use and water conservation practices into new construction. “Those kinds of efforts should be rewarded,” he said. “It’s that kind of thinking I want pursued.”

Arizona needs “long-term tax reform,” Jorgensen said. “We are too reliant on sales taxes. We’ve got to increase the base without raising the rates.”

He would not support extension of the repeal of the state equalization property tax.

“Tax rebates are great in prosperous years,” he said. “We’re not in prosperous years. The temporary repeal is set to expire next year. The tax itself is relatively small for individuals,” less than $10 a month. In sum, though, it’s about $250 million a year. “That’s a worthy investment for schools.

“Our opponents have no answer,” Jorgensen said. “They’ll parrot ‘yes, I support education,’ but we don’t have the money right now.”

He is not a proponent of nuclear power development in Southern Arizona.

“I don’t think it offers the same opportunities for Southern Arizona that solar does,” he said. “The water isn’t here. We have no answers for nuclear waste. Solar is a more attractive alternative for Southern Arizona, with more jobs, sooner, and it’s renewable, with less environmental impact.”

The candidate said he offers “leadership that can work with both parties. I’ve been able to work with folks on different sides, and I have a reasoned approach to decision-making. I have experience working with tough budgets.

“And I understand the issues from a personal level. I understand the community because I’ve been a member of it for a long time.” He is “not beholden to any Phoenix politicians. I’ll be able to represent Southern Arizona, be a voice, and I have the ability to listen.”

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