October 13, 2009 in City

Lawmaker urges piecemeal reform

Hundreds attend McMorris Rodgers’ town hall
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The federal government should reform health care in steps, rather than through one major overhaul that would be as hard to change as it’s going to be to pass, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers told a Spokane Valley crowd Monday.

Speaking to a crowd of mostly senior citizens, the Eastern Washington Republican said Congress should try to bring down insurance costs by limiting medical malpractice lawsuits, give businesses tax relief for offering health care to their employees, and allowing people to buy insurance from other states. It should cut paperwork and put more emphasis on information technology, she added.

If Senate Democrats try to push a health care bill through with just 51 votes through a parliamentary maneuver, “a lot of us will be standing up and basically just trying to shut the place down.”

But she said she was skeptical of President Barack Obama’s promise to find major savings in Medicare by cutting waste: “Every president has said we’re going to go after waste fraud and abuse” in Medicare.

The amount that doctors and hospitals receive from the government for Medicare patients, known as the reimbursement rate, needs to be changed so that Washington health care providers aren’t penalized for being more efficient, she added.

“These reimbursements need to be addressed. Medicare is on a path to bankruptcy,” she said.

The crowd, estimated at about 800, filled the bleachers on one side of the University High School gym and was generally supportive of McMorris Rodgers. But many speakers, who were chosen by drawing numbered tickets from a Bingo spinner, had pointed words for Congress and politicians in general.

Members of Congress vote on bills they don’t even read, a woman who works in health care said. “If I did that at my job, I’d be fired,” she said.

Members of both parties have borrowed from the Social Security Trust Fund, said one questioner. “You’re absolutely right. Both parties have been guilty of spending too much money,” McMorris Rodgers said.

One person worried about being labeled a terrorist for protesting Obama policies, and another wondered if there was anything they could do because Americans “are losing our liberty.” She replied a Homeland Security report that projected a rise in right-wing extremism was “outrageous and totally inappropriate.”

But McMorris Rodgers was challenged on some of her stances on health care by a few questioners. One said that the waiting lists she denounces in Canadian health care show up in the United States in a different way. Wealthy people can get any treatment they want, while poor people without health insurance wait for treatment until they have to go to an emergency room, he said.

Republicans shouldn’t just object to Democratic proposals, he said: “Put something out there and let’s get it done.”

McMorris Rodgers said she wanted to address waiting lists by having more insurance options and fewer mandates from the government about what must be included in a plan.

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