TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

September 4, 2013

McConnell and Rogers talk health care in London


TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)

CORBIN — By Charlotte Underwood / Staff Writer

About 100 people gathered at St. Joseph London hospital Tuesday afternoon to listen to Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Hal Rogers discuss upcoming health care reform.

It was their latest appearance in the Tri-County area, with both men having held similar sessions within recent weeks marked by criticism of the Affordable Care Act.

Rogers took the floor first, citing his concerns about the affect the act will have on small businesses and individuals in Kentucky.

“It’s a well-known fact that our region faces incredible challenges from obesity, diabetes, cancer, drug abuse and a host of other health issues and that is why we have to stay up-to-date on medical technology and services that can be very expensive,” Rogers said.

“For all the strides we have made in rural health in the last few years, I am afraid current dictates from Washington threaten to erode the great foundation that you have built here. Many of the mandates of Obamacare increase the cost of providing health care and pose huge challenges for our rural hospitals,” Rogers said. He told the audience that a month ago he had cast the 40th vote to repeal or defund “Obamacare.”

“We have passed it in the House 40 times and then Harry Reid in the Senate throws it in the wastebasket when it gets sent over there,” Rogers said.

Rogers gave an example of what he said were “shocks” people would experience once health care reform goes into effect.

“Small businesses and individuals in Kentucky and everywhere will see some of the nation’s largest increase in insurance premiums. The estimated increase is between 65 to 100 percent,” Rogers said.

Another shock that Rogers cited was the “promise” the health care reform would not get between patients and their doctors.

“But you may not get to keep your doctor if you select the wrong exchange policy program,” Rogers said. Rogers also spoke of his concern that after the health care act was passed, more than 300,000 people in Kentucky would be added to Medicaid.

“My question is, who is going to pay for it? I think I am looking at them,” Rogers said, adding that he also did not know how facilities and medical staff would provide for all the new Medicaid patients.

“If Obamacare is put in place perfectly and works as it was dreamt about by Obama, we will still have 30 million Americans without insurance,” Rogers said as his final “shock.” He said he believes since the employer mandate of health insurance had been delayed by a year, that individuals ought to have that same delay.

McConnell began by saying that Medicare and Social Security were largely passed on a bipartisan basis.

“In other words, it was a meeting of the minds that these very significant pieces of legislation needed passed and was done on a bipartisan basis. Obamacare did not enjoy the support of a single Republican of the House or Senate and I assure you it was not just because we were viscerally opposed to anything the president might choose to do. It was because it was an extraordinary mistake,”  McConnell said, adding that it will reduce reimbursements to hospitals, home health care and hospice by $750 billion over the next 10 years and raise taxes on health insurance premiums and medical devices.

“When it is all said and done, the goal of everyone having health care insurance is not met. The mayor said he hoped to have some answers today, but there are no answers … no one knows what is in it, not those who wrote it and not those who try to read it,” McConnell said.

He said the only “sensible solution” is to “pull it out root and branch and start all over.”

When asked by an audience member what he would have done differently to reform health care, McConnell replied there were two things that should be done.

“The first is to reform medical malpractice and the second would be to pit health insurance companies nation-wide against each other in national competition.

“This would drive the prices down and keep the quality up,” McConnell said.

Both he and Rogers told the audience they would continue to try to “improve the health care field.”