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Boucher talks about health care

Although he believes the nation’s healthcare system needs reform, Ninth District U.S. Congressman Rick Boucher has twice said “no” to the proposals placed before him to date.
Whether he changes his vote when the combined House and Senate version is finalized in a few weeks will depend on whether it meets a list of core principals he believes are essential for the wellbeing of the people and hospitals of his district.
“I have several principals that I will use to evaluate the healthcare reform measure” that emerges from the House and Senate Conference Committee, he said. “I will consider that very carefully in determining whether to vote for or against it.”
He said the interests of Southwest Virginia “will be the sole determining issue” in his decision. Voting against two bills so far, meant the congressman voted against the majority of his own party, but he says that doesn’t concern him.
“Party doesn’t matter to me on an issue like this. What is in the best interest of my congressional district does matter,” he added.
He pointed out that he was “very concerned” that terms of the house bill would “financially undermine” the “not-for-profit hospitals in the region I represent.” He said that was the opinion of virtually every administrator of the non-profit hospitals in the Ninth District that are “struggling to make ends meet. Even in normal times, they are financially stretched.”
He noted that two hospitals in the district (Patrick and Dickenson counties) already had to close, but Dickenson’s was able to reopen when the community bought it.
“We can’t afford to lose anymore hospitals in the ninth district. I was very concerned that under the provisions of the bill in the house we were at risk of losing hospitals here in the ninth district,” Boucher said. “I voted against it because of its effect on Southwest Virginia.”
“It’s important that our hospitals not be financially damaged” by the provisions of a healthcare reform bill, he said, outlining the principals he will use to evaluate the final proposal. “(Rural hospitals) are essential to healthcare delivery in our region and we simply cannot take steps that will undermine our non-profit hospitals financially.”
He said it also is imperative that reform be fair for everyone – “for people who do not have insurance” and “for the people who do have insurance” He estimated there are about 35 million citizens without insurance and that about 80 percent of the nation’s population is insured.
For an “effective reform” to receive his support, it will have to reduce healthcare costs and make health insurance affordable for the insured and uninsured.
“There is a perception it may end up benefiting the uninsured at the expense of the insured. We cannot allow that to happen …” Boucher said.
Another concern he wants to see addressed in the combined bill is the disparity in Medicare reimbursements between urban and rural areas.
Under the present Medicare system, Boucher says urban healthcare providers get paid more than rural healthcare providers for the same medical service.
“Allegedly there are cost differences that justify these payment differences, but I don’t believe that’s true,” he said. “Many healthcare providers have told me that the costs tend to be higher in rural areas than they are in urban areas. And the medical equipment that needs to be purchased, which is an underlying cost in basic healthcare, is as expensive in a rural area as it is in an urban area.
“There is no cost difference that justifies this payment difference and I think that disparity needs to be eliminated.”
While the disparity varies from location to location, he estimates it can be as much as a 30 to 40 percent difference.
Finally, Boucher said he wants to see that some provisions added to the Senate bill during negotiations are removed.
“One other matter that concerns me is that the negotiating that led to 60 senators voting for the Senate bill was unsavory in the extreme,” he said. “Some sweetheart deals were made that I think go well beyond the bounds of normal and appropriate negotiations.”
For example, he recounted how the senate bill provides that the federal government will pay for the increase in cost for Medicaid expansion in Nebraska. He said that provision was added for the sole purpose of getting one senators vote.
“The other 49 states will have to bear their proportionate share of the increase and they’re going to have to bear Nebraska’s share too. That simply isn’t fair.”
He said such actions are “completely beyond the bounds of acceptability. And a couple of other states received favorable arrangements that discriminate in their favor and are a disadvantage to the other states. These provisions in my view need to be removed.”
Asked whether it is true these type of negotiations occur all the time, he said, “No that doesn’t happen. That is way beyond the bounds of what is acceptable and certainly what is normal.”
But despite his lack of support for the bills before him so far, Boucher said healthcare does need reforming.
“Healthcare costs are increasing at more than four times the rate of increase in household income. The typical family is finding it to be very hard to purchase health insurance today. The costs have simply become too great to bear … and they need to be reigned in. So we need to find a way to control healthcare costs,” he said.
He pointed out the two town hall meetings he held in his district – in Pulaski (1200 people) and Abingdon (1400 people) – had the largest attendance of any meetings he has held while in Congress.
“Most of the people who were at both meetings were there to express concerns about the legislation as they understood it. These were not manufactured turnouts. It was not a political party that was responsible,” he said. “The expressions of concern at those meetings were very real and came from people motivated to express their views by a genuine concern about healthcare delivery in their region and what reform would mean to them.”
He said both meetings were “helpful and informative.”
Coming Tuesday: Boucher on the urgent need to balance the budget and how he thinks it might be achieved.
Coming Wednesday: Boucher’s efforts to showcase Southwest Virginia to large data centers.
Coming Thursday: Boucher’s outlook for the Democratic party in the November elections.
Comnig Friday: Boucher on homeland security.

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Boucher talks about health care

Although he believes the nation’s healthcare system needs reform, Ninth District U.S. Congressman Rick Boucher has twice said “no” to the proposals placed before him to date.
Whether he changes his vote when the combined House and Senate version is finalized in a few weeks will depend on whether it meets a list of core principals he believes are essential for the wellbeing of the people and hospitals of his district.
“I have several principals that I will use to evaluate the healthcare reform measure” that emerges from the House and Senate Conference Committee, he said. “I will consider that very carefully in determining whether to vote for or against it.”
He said the interests of Southwest Virginia “will be the sole determining issue” in his decision. Voting against two bills so far, meant the congressman voted against the majority of his own party, but he says that doesn’t concern him.
“Party doesn’t matter to me on an issue like this. What is in the best interest of my congressional district does matter,” he added.
He pointed out that he was “very concerned” that terms of the house bill would “financially undermine” the “not-for-profit hospitals in the region I represent.” He said that was the opinion of virtually every administrator of the non-profit hospitals in the Ninth District that are “struggling to make ends meet. Even in normal times, they are financially stretched.”
He noted that two hospitals in the district (Patrick and Dickenson counties) already had to close, but Dickenson’s was able to reopen when the community bought it.
“We can’t afford to lose anymore hospitals in the ninth district. I was very concerned that under the provisions of the bill in the house we were at risk of losing hospitals here in the ninth district,” Boucher said. “I voted against it because of its effect on Southwest Virginia.”
“It’s important that our hospitals not be financially damaged” by the provisions of a healthcare reform bill, he said, outlining the principals he will use to evaluate the final proposal. “(Rural hospitals) are essential to healthcare delivery in our region and we simply cannot take steps that will undermine our non-profit hospitals financially.”
He said it also is imperative that reform be fair for everyone – “for people who do not have insurance” and “for the people who do have insurance” He estimated there are about 35 million citizens without insurance and that about 80 percent of the nation’s population is insured.
For an “effective reform” to receive his support, it will have to reduce healthcare costs and make health insurance affordable for the insured and uninsured.
“There is a perception it may end up benefiting the uninsured at the expense of the insured. We cannot allow that to happen …” Boucher said.
Another concern he wants to see addressed in the combined bill is the disparity in Medicare reimbursements between urban and rural areas.
Under the present Medicare system, Boucher says urban healthcare providers get paid more than rural healthcare providers for the same medical service.
“Allegedly there are cost differences that justify these payment differences, but I don’t believe that’s true,” he said. “Many healthcare providers have told me that the costs tend to be higher in rural areas than they are in urban areas. And the medical equipment that needs to be purchased, which is an underlying cost in basic healthcare, is as expensive in a rural area as it is in an urban area.
“There is no cost difference that justifies this payment difference and I think that disparity needs to be eliminated.”
While the disparity varies from location to location, he estimates it can be as much as a 30 to 40 percent difference.
Finally, Boucher said he wants to see that some provisions added to the Senate bill during negotiations are removed.
“One other matter that concerns me is that the negotiating that led to 60 senators voting for the Senate bill was unsavory in the extreme,” he said. “Some sweetheart deals were made that I think go well beyond the bounds of normal and appropriate negotiations.”
For example, he recounted how the senate bill provides that the federal government will pay for the increase in cost for Medicaid expansion in Nebraska. He said that provision was added for the sole purpose of getting one senators vote.
“The other 49 states will have to bear their proportionate share of the increase and they’re going to have to bear Nebraska’s share too. That simply isn’t fair.”
He said such actions are “completely beyond the bounds of acceptability. And a couple of other states received favorable arrangements that discriminate in their favor and are a disadvantage to the other states. These provisions in my view need to be removed.”
Asked whether it is true these type of negotiations occur all the time, he said, “No that doesn’t happen. That is way beyond the bounds of what is acceptable and certainly what is normal.”
But despite his lack of support for the bills before him so far, Boucher said healthcare does need reforming.
“Healthcare costs are increasing at more than four times the rate of increase in household income. The typical family is finding it to be very hard to purchase health insurance today. The costs have simply become too great to bear … and they need to be reigned in. So we need to find a way to control healthcare costs,” he said.
He pointed out the two town hall meetings he held in his district – in Pulaski (1200 people) and Abingdon (1400 people) – had the largest attendance of any meetings he has held while in Congress.
“Most of the people who were at both meetings were there to express concerns about the legislation as they understood it. These were not manufactured turnouts. It was not a political party that was responsible,” he said. “The expressions of concern at those meetings were very real and came from people motivated to express their views by a genuine concern about healthcare delivery in their region and what reform would mean to them.”
He said both meetings were “helpful and informative.”
Coming Tuesday: Boucher on the urgent need to balance the budget and how he thinks it might be achieved.
Coming Wednesday: Boucher’s efforts to showcase Southwest Virginia to large data centers.
Coming Thursday: Boucher’s outlook for the Democratic party in the November elections.
Comnig Friday: Boucher on homeland security.

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