Bratton Focuses on Big Issues
Dr. Teresa Sue Bratton is taking her passion for health care, the economy, education and the environment on the campaign trail.
Bratton, a Greensboro pediatrician and a Democrat, is challenging veteran Republican Congressman Howard Coble for the 6th District seat in the U.S. Congress.
"There is a choice on the ballot," she said when asked about her chances of winning election in a heavily Republican district against a seasoned and highly popular congressman.
Bratton has closed her practice in Greensboro to concentrate on the campaign for Congress. She now devotes one day a week to work at a clinic that attracts patients with limited income.
In her opinion, one of the most obvious solutions to the nation's health-care problems is right before everyone's eyes but is stalled in Congress right now. It is the prospect of expanding S-CHIP, State Children's Insurance Program.
Bratton said it was Coble's vote on the S-CHIP expansion that persuaded her to run.
The stalemate in Congress focuses on a proposal to expand S-CHIP coverage by raising the income level of families with children needing medical insurance. It's not a free program, because clients must pay an entry fee and limited co-payments.
If Congress had passed the expansion bill, it would have provided $35 billion in funding over five years to provide low-cost insurance to working families who cannot afford insurance on their own. These are families who work and do not qualify for Medicaid and whose employers do not provide group insurance.
"Eighty percent of the people without insurance are working people, but they are less able to pay for insurance. The average family of four would pay $12,000 a year for insurance. People can't afford that," she said.
Bratton said S-CHIP is "very affordable" and in theory could be expanded to cover adults. She said it could also be expanded to offer a buy-in service for small businesses.
"The American Medical Association supports coverage of all Americans, and the AMA is a pretty conservative group," Bratton said.
She also emphasized that her plan would not extend this coverage to illegal immigrants.
Bratton said she favors formation of a nonprofit entity to provide administration and coverage.
Job Situation 'Dire'
She says the risk pool should be large enough to make the program affordable.
One reason medical insurance is such a big problem, she says, is based in the lack of jobs available today.
"People are out there trying to find work," she said. "The situation is dire."
The unemployed and the under-employed are not securing medical care because they cannot afford it, she said. When they finally do see a doctor or visit the emergency room, their condition is so dire that it's even more costly to treat them.
"To me, we've got to solve this problem," she said.
The day of major industries that hire thousands of people has passed, and Bratton said 80 percent of the new jobs created today are with small businesses. She says it is time to nurture those small businesses.
Bratton has a list of job-making opportunities. She said incentives can be offered to make homes more energy-efficient, and new job opportunities are available in agriculture, if only someone takes the initiative.
Tobacco may be in decline, but she noted that research shows that tobacco can be grown for vaccines that could address at least six viruses.
Job creation leads her into another favorite subject needing congressional attention -- education. Bratton said the new global economy means that "we have to become the best educated country in the world."
Bratton said President Bush's No Child Left Behind program works but is limited by a shortage of funds. She said teachers do not have sufficient funds to bring students up to par.
"Education starts at birth, and we need to start educating them then," she says. "We need to support a system to bring everyone up to their potential. Let's invest to help these children not to drop out of school."
Environment, Energy Crucial
Her other major interest is the environment.
"Good health coverage won't do much good if we live in an unhealthy environment," she said. "We need healthy air and water."
Bratton said these issues are directly related to each other. Many sick children are sick because of poor nutrition, a characteristic of poverty and poor education. An unhealthy environment thus adds to that poor health.
She also believes that the country can decrease, even eliminate, its dependence on foreign oil without drilling in new places, especially in environmentally sensitive areas.
"Companies already have leases but are not drilling for billions of barrels of oil in those places," she said. "Why are we talking about new areas for drilling?"
Bratton said the United States is short-sighted not to push ahead for renewable sources of energy and not to encourage energy efficiency.
"No one has an answer now," she said. "That's because we haven't seriously developed a system. We want clean, renewable energy."
Bratton admits that Coble is a formidable foe on the ballot but argues that she has fresh new ideas to offer and she wants voters to have a choice, to decide how they want their member of Congress to vote.
She also said Coble wants to spend $35 billion to send more troops to Iraq but is unwilling to spend another $3 billion to keep children healthy.
Bratton was born in Nashville, Tenn., in 1948 and attended Vanderbilt University, where she earned an undergraduate degree in 1970 and a medical degree in 1974. For 25 years, she worked as a pediatric allergist in the North Carolina Piedmont. In 2006, she retired from that practice and turned attention to an allergy/asthma clinic for indigent children at Guilford Child Health.
She is also an adjunct clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the UNC School of Medicine.
A Greensboro resident for more than 25 years, she and her husband, Dr. Gustav Blomquist Jr., are the parents of Gus, 31, Kerstin, 29, and Michael, 26. Bratton is a member of First Presbyterian Church, Greens-boro.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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