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Boucher hears from the people

In his 27 years serving the Sixth U.S. House District, Congressman Rick Boucher says Tuesday morning’s town hall meeting on healthcare had the largest turnout of any he has held.
An estimated 1,200 people attended the meeting in Edwards Hall on the New River Community College Campus. Boucher said the purpose of the meeting was not to endorse or oppose any certain proposed plan of healthcare reform, but rather to allow for an information exchange between him and his constituents.
All in all, Boucher said after the three-hour meeting he thought “people were very respectful with the comments that they made and the questions that they asked.
“There were divergent points of view expressed, with some people strongly supporting reform that would ensure everyone has affordable access to healthcare and many others strongly opposing the government doing anything.”
However, Boucher said he thinks most people’s comments were “somewhere in the middle” in that they believe reforms are needed, but “they’re very concerned about certain aspects” of the proposed plans being considered now.
The congressman said there were some people in the crowd who were “disruptive, but only a handful out of the more than 1,200 people in the room. I thought the conversation was mutually respectful and mutually informative.
“I certainly learned from what the people told me and I hope, in turn, those who came are leaving with more information than they had” when they arrived.
Boucher said he “got a sense” that while some reforms are needed, his constituents “want to be very cautious about what those reforms are. It’s important that we take our time – that we not rush this measure to passage in the House. We need to be deliberate and explain each step we take to the American public. I think that’s very important and, frankly, I was glad to hear those responses today.”
In his opening statement Tuesday, Boucher told the crowd he voted against the healthcare bill that came before the House because he thinks Congress needs to give the reform process time.
He drew a loud round of applause when he said, “It should not be rushed. It is far more important to do a good job than to rush.” He went on to say that he feels it is “critical” the public understands the reforms before they are implemented.
Boucher said the healthcare community in the Sixth District is concerned that an improperly drafted bill could destabilize rural hospitals, two of which have closed in the past few years due to financial issues. He explained that rural hospitals are dependent upon reimbursements from private insurance carriers to remain viable and they fear a government plan could put private insurance companies out of business.
The Congressman drew a large round of “boos” from the audience when he said he does not believe the proposed healthcare reform is socialized medicine.
He insisted reforms are necessary because of the 36 million U.S. citizens without insurance coverage. Lacking insurance, he noted that these people often delay getting treatment until their illness forces them to go to an emergency room, where they receive one of the highest cost services.
These un-reimbursed costs then get passed on to those who do have insurance coverage. Boucher says the average family pays $1,100 more per year in premiums to cover the cost of the uninsured.
Boucher, a lawyer, agreed with several citizens who insisted tort reforms are the key to lower-cost healthcare. One man said he can’t believe legislators would consider any health reform bill that doesn’t include provisions for tort reform.
“I think tort reform is necessary,” he said, noting that the General Assembly in Virginia has adopted caps on the amount of money a court can award in medical cases. He said he thinks it is time for the nation to follow Virginia’s lead and adopt a plan similar to the one in the Commonwealth.
Nonetheless, Boucher said he believes legislators will need to “strike a balance” between limiting the amount of money a person can recover from a medical injury, while protecting the person’s right to be compensated for malpractice.
At the beginning of the meeting, Boucher listed several things he think is important for a healthcare bill to include:
• Insurance companies should not be able to deny coverage for a person who already is sick, nor cancel a person’s coverage because they get sick.
• Healthcare officials should be reimbursed for providing information on preventive healthcare measures.
• Insured individuals should be able to keep their health insurance coverage when they lose their jobs or move to other jobs.
• There should be no reductions in Medicare and Medicaid services.
• There should be a transition from paper records to electronic records, with proper measures taken to ensure security.
The idea of electronic records did not sit well with many people in the audience, who erupted in boos so loud the rest of Boucher’s comments on electronic records were inaudible.
Boucher drew applause when he said he believes the final plan needs to be a bi-partisan effort or “the public won’t accept it. It shouldn’t pass on a party-line vote.”
Although he said he hasn’t decided on any one of the five healthcare plans floating about, he thinks the one in the Senate Finance Committee is the “better” plan because it calls for cooperatives rather than a government run plan. He said he believes whatever plan is passed will most likely have cooperatives rather than a government-operated plan.
Boucher invited three area healthcare officials to speak to the group. Dr. Ed Murphy, chief executive officer of Carilion Health Systems, said healthcare reform is important to provide everyone with insurance, reduce personal bankruptcies resulting from medical bills, prevent people from having to choose between their medications and other necessities, and slow down the rate increase in healthcare costs.
C. M. Mitchell, pharmacy director at Twin County Community Hospital in Galax, said reform is needed because rural hospitals are “under tremendous pressure” to survive under the current system and to prevent healthcare costs from being shifted to the insured from the uninsured.
Under the present system, Mitchell said, hospitals are encouraged to exchange quality for quantity because the more patients seen, the more reimbursements the facility receives.
Dr. Glenn Hall, founder of New River Valley Pediatrics in Radford, said he has “a lot of trouble” with the present healthcare reform bill. He said he has concerns that a government-operated plan will put private health insurance companies out of business and, subsequently, NRV Pediatrics would be “hard pressed to survive.”
Hall said he also is unable to support the present proposal because it doesn’t address malpractice that “drastically affects the cost of healthcare … it’s amazing it’s not addressed in the bill because one of the biggest reasons (for healthcare reform) was to address the costs.”
Due to the ever-present threat of being “hauled into court,” Hall said doctors often order tests that aren’t necessary. When radiation is involved in those tests, he noted, the patient is unnecessarily being exposed to harmful radiation.
The threat of malpractice suits, “make doctors do things that are wrong.”
Hall said he realizes healthcare needs to be overhauled, but “I’m worried about throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
Finally, Hall said the current proposal is flawed in that it isn’t possible to “crank out” the number of doctors that will be needed to prevent delays in medical treatment if everyone is insured and heads to the doctors. Plus, cranking out doctors leads to “inferior doctors,” he said.
During the questioning phase of the meeting, Boucher rejected contentions that people would lose their current healthcare plans, be “sacrificing our liberties for someone else’s security, and that the government would be violating the Constitution by “taking over healthcare.”
Boucher referred to two people attending Tuesday’s meeting as prime examples for the need for healthcare reform. One is a young man trying to find employment, but unable to afford insurance, and the other is a college student about to lose coverage under her parent’s policy, but not yet employed.
A woman of twin daughters expressed concern that reform will delay patient treatment. She said one of her daughters had to undergo emergency treatment for cancer a few years ago, and that under the proposed system she would have died before being able to get treatment.
Boucher said the woman’s concern is shared by many Americans “who don’t fully comprehend what Congress is trying to do.” He insists the government isn’t trying to take over healthcare.
One person countered Boucher’s statement that the public doesn’t comprehend attempts at reform, saying, “the problem is we do understand.” Several others suggested they were insulted by Boucher’s suggestion that don’t understand.
Asked whether he would vote for a plan that doesn’t require members of Congress and their families to use it, Boucher said he wouldn’t vote for any legislation that isn’t as good as what Congress receives.
One man said the biggest problem he sees in government today is that it’s getting a lot bigger. Referring to a statement by Thomas Jefferson, he added, “if the government is big enough to give you everything, they’re also big enough to take it away.”
Asked about the bill not specifically exempting abortions from coverage under a government plan, Boucher said he would support language that prohibits coverage for abortions. However, he stopped short of saying he would propose such language be added to the bill.
Asked about the effect on small business viability if they are taxed or penalized for not being able to provide healthcare insurance for their employees, Boucher said it would only apply to small businesses with payrolls over $500,000 per year. He said that would exempt most small businesses in America.
A woman said she is concerned about her grandchildren “who will be paying for this.” She called that “true taxation without representation” and added, “there’s very little the government does that doesn’t get more expensive and less efficient.”
A veteran estimated the national debt increased by $300,000 to $500,000 while the meeting was being held. He said it scares him that China and Japan now owns “44.73 percent of our treasury. Are we selling out our freedom?”
Boucher said he has confidence the nation will be able to pay off its debt because “we can accomplish things. We’re the most resilient country in the world. We have and can do it again.”
Several attending the meeting suggested Boucher would be voted out of office this November if he supports healthcare reform. One said if Congress fails to follow the people’s will a new revolution would be started, “but we won’t be marching to drums, we’ll be marching to the polls.”
However, Boucher said he will not make his decision based on his political future because “it’s not that important. What is (important) is what is right for the American public.”
He said he’s going to be “voted out” by both sides regardless how he votes so “all the threats in the world won’t affect me.”

Boucher said he is reserving judgment on the bills until a final one is written. At that point, he said, “I will do what I think is best for this region and America.”

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Boucher hears from the people

In his 27 years serving the Sixth U.S. House District, Congressman Rick Boucher says Tuesday morning’s town hall meeting on healthcare had the largest turnout of any he has held.
An estimated 1,200 people attended the meeting in Edwards Hall on the New River Community College Campus. Boucher said the purpose of the meeting was not to endorse or oppose any certain proposed plan of healthcare reform, but rather to allow for an information exchange between him and his constituents.
All in all, Boucher said after the three-hour meeting he thought “people were very respectful with the comments that they made and the questions that they asked.
“There were divergent points of view expressed, with some people strongly supporting reform that would ensure everyone has affordable access to healthcare and many others strongly opposing the government doing anything.”
However, Boucher said he thinks most people’s comments were “somewhere in the middle” in that they believe reforms are needed, but “they’re very concerned about certain aspects” of the proposed plans being considered now.
The congressman said there were some people in the crowd who were “disruptive, but only a handful out of the more than 1,200 people in the room. I thought the conversation was mutually respectful and mutually informative.
“I certainly learned from what the people told me and I hope, in turn, those who came are leaving with more information than they had” when they arrived.
Boucher said he “got a sense” that while some reforms are needed, his constituents “want to be very cautious about what those reforms are. It’s important that we take our time – that we not rush this measure to passage in the House. We need to be deliberate and explain each step we take to the American public. I think that’s very important and, frankly, I was glad to hear those responses today.”
In his opening statement Tuesday, Boucher told the crowd he voted against the healthcare bill that came before the House because he thinks Congress needs to give the reform process time.
He drew a loud round of applause when he said, “It should not be rushed. It is far more important to do a good job than to rush.” He went on to say that he feels it is “critical” the public understands the reforms before they are implemented.
Boucher said the healthcare community in the Sixth District is concerned that an improperly drafted bill could destabilize rural hospitals, two of which have closed in the past few years due to financial issues. He explained that rural hospitals are dependent upon reimbursements from private insurance carriers to remain viable and they fear a government plan could put private insurance companies out of business.
The Congressman drew a large round of “boos” from the audience when he said he does not believe the proposed healthcare reform is socialized medicine.
He insisted reforms are necessary because of the 36 million U.S. citizens without insurance coverage. Lacking insurance, he noted that these people often delay getting treatment until their illness forces them to go to an emergency room, where they receive one of the highest cost services.
These un-reimbursed costs then get passed on to those who do have insurance coverage. Boucher says the average family pays $1,100 more per year in premiums to cover the cost of the uninsured.
Boucher, a lawyer, agreed with several citizens who insisted tort reforms are the key to lower-cost healthcare. One man said he can’t believe legislators would consider any health reform bill that doesn’t include provisions for tort reform.
“I think tort reform is necessary,” he said, noting that the General Assembly in Virginia has adopted caps on the amount of money a court can award in medical cases. He said he thinks it is time for the nation to follow Virginia’s lead and adopt a plan similar to the one in the Commonwealth.
Nonetheless, Boucher said he believes legislators will need to “strike a balance” between limiting the amount of money a person can recover from a medical injury, while protecting the person’s right to be compensated for malpractice.
At the beginning of the meeting, Boucher listed several things he think is important for a healthcare bill to include:
• Insurance companies should not be able to deny coverage for a person who already is sick, nor cancel a person’s coverage because they get sick.
• Healthcare officials should be reimbursed for providing information on preventive healthcare measures.
• Insured individuals should be able to keep their health insurance coverage when they lose their jobs or move to other jobs.
• There should be no reductions in Medicare and Medicaid services.
• There should be a transition from paper records to electronic records, with proper measures taken to ensure security.
The idea of electronic records did not sit well with many people in the audience, who erupted in boos so loud the rest of Boucher’s comments on electronic records were inaudible.
Boucher drew applause when he said he believes the final plan needs to be a bi-partisan effort or “the public won’t accept it. It shouldn’t pass on a party-line vote.”
Although he said he hasn’t decided on any one of the five healthcare plans floating about, he thinks the one in the Senate Finance Committee is the “better” plan because it calls for cooperatives rather than a government run plan. He said he believes whatever plan is passed will most likely have cooperatives rather than a government-operated plan.
Boucher invited three area healthcare officials to speak to the group. Dr. Ed Murphy, chief executive officer of Carilion Health Systems, said healthcare reform is important to provide everyone with insurance, reduce personal bankruptcies resulting from medical bills, prevent people from having to choose between their medications and other necessities, and slow down the rate increase in healthcare costs.
C. M. Mitchell, pharmacy director at Twin County Community Hospital in Galax, said reform is needed because rural hospitals are “under tremendous pressure” to survive under the current system and to prevent healthcare costs from being shifted to the insured from the uninsured.
Under the present system, Mitchell said, hospitals are encouraged to exchange quality for quantity because the more patients seen, the more reimbursements the facility receives.
Dr. Glenn Hall, founder of New River Valley Pediatrics in Radford, said he has “a lot of trouble” with the present healthcare reform bill. He said he has concerns that a government-operated plan will put private health insurance companies out of business and, subsequently, NRV Pediatrics would be “hard pressed to survive.”
Hall said he also is unable to support the present proposal because it doesn’t address malpractice that “drastically affects the cost of healthcare … it’s amazing it’s not addressed in the bill because one of the biggest reasons (for healthcare reform) was to address the costs.”
Due to the ever-present threat of being “hauled into court,” Hall said doctors often order tests that aren’t necessary. When radiation is involved in those tests, he noted, the patient is unnecessarily being exposed to harmful radiation.
The threat of malpractice suits, “make doctors do things that are wrong.”
Hall said he realizes healthcare needs to be overhauled, but “I’m worried about throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
Finally, Hall said the current proposal is flawed in that it isn’t possible to “crank out” the number of doctors that will be needed to prevent delays in medical treatment if everyone is insured and heads to the doctors. Plus, cranking out doctors leads to “inferior doctors,” he said.
During the questioning phase of the meeting, Boucher rejected contentions that people would lose their current healthcare plans, be “sacrificing our liberties for someone else’s security, and that the government would be violating the Constitution by “taking over healthcare.”
Boucher referred to two people attending Tuesday’s meeting as prime examples for the need for healthcare reform. One is a young man trying to find employment, but unable to afford insurance, and the other is a college student about to lose coverage under her parent’s policy, but not yet employed.
A woman of twin daughters expressed concern that reform will delay patient treatment. She said one of her daughters had to undergo emergency treatment for cancer a few years ago, and that under the proposed system she would have died before being able to get treatment.
Boucher said the woman’s concern is shared by many Americans “who don’t fully comprehend what Congress is trying to do.” He insists the government isn’t trying to take over healthcare.
One person countered Boucher’s statement that the public doesn’t comprehend attempts at reform, saying, “the problem is we do understand.” Several others suggested they were insulted by Boucher’s suggestion that don’t understand.
Asked whether he would vote for a plan that doesn’t require members of Congress and their families to use it, Boucher said he wouldn’t vote for any legislation that isn’t as good as what Congress receives.
One man said the biggest problem he sees in government today is that it’s getting a lot bigger. Referring to a statement by Thomas Jefferson, he added, “if the government is big enough to give you everything, they’re also big enough to take it away.”
Asked about the bill not specifically exempting abortions from coverage under a government plan, Boucher said he would support language that prohibits coverage for abortions. However, he stopped short of saying he would propose such language be added to the bill.
Asked about the effect on small business viability if they are taxed or penalized for not being able to provide healthcare insurance for their employees, Boucher said it would only apply to small businesses with payrolls over $500,000 per year. He said that would exempt most small businesses in America.
A woman said she is concerned about her grandchildren “who will be paying for this.” She called that “true taxation without representation” and added, “there’s very little the government does that doesn’t get more expensive and less efficient.”
A veteran estimated the national debt increased by $300,000 to $500,000 while the meeting was being held. He said it scares him that China and Japan now owns “44.73 percent of our treasury. Are we selling out our freedom?”
Boucher said he has confidence the nation will be able to pay off its debt because “we can accomplish things. We’re the most resilient country in the world. We have and can do it again.”
Several attending the meeting suggested Boucher would be voted out of office this November if he supports healthcare reform. One said if Congress fails to follow the people’s will a new revolution would be started, “but we won’t be marching to drums, we’ll be marching to the polls.”
However, Boucher said he will not make his decision based on his political future because “it’s not that important. What is (important) is what is right for the American public.”
He said he’s going to be “voted out” by both sides regardless how he votes so “all the threats in the world won’t affect me.”

Boucher said he is reserving judgment on the bills until a final one is written. At that point, he said, “I will do what I think is best for this region and America.”

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