Improving access to health care for all West Virginians requires a robust Medicare program that can support our doctors and hospitals so that they can effectively treat their patients.
Having met with many of our State’s dedicated health professionals, and toured the health facilities where they care for their patients, I have listened to the concerns of care providers who are trying to ensure access to quality and affordable health care for every West Virginian.
I am adamant in opposing budget cuts that would weaken Medicare and undercut access to health services for West Virginia seniors. I am pushing back hard against proposals that would not only raise costs and undermine coverage for seniors, but also cut payments to our physicians and health care facilities that rely on equitable reimbursements to keep their doors open.
Recently, I visited the Midland Meadows Senior Living community in Ona, where I spoke with the facility’s director and discussed legislation I have cosponsored to ensure that seniors are covered by Medicare for rehabilitative care in assisted living facilities after a hospital visit.
I also visited the HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Huntington, where I met with hospital officials and staff to discuss Medicare payments for inpatient rehabilitation facilities.
I hear regularly from health providers and patients about cuts to Medicare programs that support services for radiation therapy, hip and knee replacements, outpatient therapy, and other forms of critical care for our region. I understand that many physician practices are small businesses, and my goal is to help these physicians with unruly Medicare rules so they can better serve their patients.
I remain in regular contact with the Medicare officials to push back against any administrative and legislative changes that would negatively affect the work of the dedicated professionals who care for seniors in our State.
As well, I am closely monitoring ongoing budget negotiations that involve legislation to reform the flawed physician payment formula under Medicare, known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) system.
In 1997, when cuts in Medicare payments to physicians were first proposed under the SGR system, I voted against them. Since then, I have consistently voted for legislation to ensure that the scheduled cuts under the SGR system do not take effect, and supported efforts to repeal the flawed payment formula and create a lasting solution that ends the cycle of proposed fee cuts and short-term patches. Most recently, I wrote to the Congressional Leadership urging the House to consider legislation to set Medicare on a more stable and predictable course for current and future generations of patients and physicians.
We must strengthen Federal investments in community health centers that provide primary and preventive care in rural regions, along with programs that bring health care providers to underserved areas. I also believe we must update Medicare rules in order to expand the role of health care providers where doctors are in short supply. And I have pushed to expand and improve the Medicare Graduate Medical Education (GME) program, which is the largest source of federal support for health workforce development and contributes annually to residents’ salaries and teaching compensation.
At issue is addressing the basic human need for quality health care and marshalling our resources as a nation to meet that need.
I fully intend to continue to use my seniority, my experience, and the many bipartisan relationships I have built over many years to strengthen and protect health care services in our region.
(U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) represents West Virginia’s 3rd District)