Lat­est de­bate puts health care in spot­light

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ariél Zangla azangla@free­manon­ ArielAtFree­man on Twit­ter

John Faso and Ze­phyr Tea­chout each said dur­ing their lat­est de­bate that they would main­tain an of­fice in Kingston if they were elected to rep­re­sent New York’s 19th Con­gres­sional District. But on other top­ics, they were quick to point out their dif­fer­ences.

The de­bate, Thurs­day evening at Con­gre­ga­tion Emanuel on Al­bany Av­enue in Kingston, was the sec­ond time the can­di­dates faced off this week in their con­test to suc­ceed U.S. Rep. Chris Gib­son, R-Kin­der­hook.

As in pre­vi­ous de­bates, Faso, a Repub­li­can from Columbia County, and Tea­chout, a Demo­crat from Dutchess County, fielded a wide va­ri­ety of ques­tions.

Un­like in ear­lier de­bates, though, the crowd was much more spir­ited and en­cour­aged to par­tic­i­pate by ap­plaud­ing their can­di­date of choice. That ap­plause at times was joined by boos and hisses and, at one point, by a pro­tester who walked to the front of the room and held a large ban­ner that looked like a check writ­ten to Faso from “Wall Street bankers.”

The pro­tester and a com­pan­ion were quickly es­corted from the venue, but not be­fore Faso joked they were not part of his cam­paign.

A spokes­woman for Tea­chout later said the pro­test­ers were not part of her cam­paign ei­ther.

Ques­tions posed to the can­di­dates cov­ered such sub­jects as So­cial Se­cu­rity, health in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act, pri­va­tiz­ing the fed­eral Vet­er­ans Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­fra­struc­ture and the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Closer to home, they were asked about the proposal from the U.S. Coast Guard to es­tab­lish 10 large-vessel an­chor­age grounds along the Hud­son River be­tween Yonkers and Kingston.

“I don’t think the Vet­er­ans [Health] Ad­min­is­tra­tion should be pri­va­tized, how­ever I do think that the vet­er­ans of our coun­try de­serve bet­ter,” Faso said. He said he would like vet­er­ans to be able to see any med­i­cal provider of their choice, which would cre­ate com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the VHA and pri­vate health-care providers.

Faso then shared a story of a vet­eran who was in­jured by an im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice. He said doc­tors at the Vet­er­ans Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion told the man they wanted to re­move his foot, but the vet­eran found a doc­tor in the pri­vate sec­tor who was able to save it.

Tea­chout said she, too, op­posed pri­va­ti­za­tion, but added that the Vet­er­ans Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Choice Pro­gram needs se­ri­ous re­form. She said she met a vet­eran who, be­liev­ing he was hav­ing a heart at­tack, called the Choice Pro­gram. When no one an­swered, he went to a pri­vate hospi­tal and now is still pay­ing the bill, Tea­chout said.

“The VA pro­vides es­sen­tial ser­vices to our vet­er­ans,” Tea­chout said. She added, though, that she wants to be sure vet­er­ans have ac­cess to speedy care and that their cov­er­age is ex­panded to in­clude dental in­sur­ance.

Tea­chout also said she wants vet­er­ans to have in­te­grated care so that, even when they see a provider out­side the Vet­er­ans Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion, it still would be ac­count­able.

On a re­lated ques­tion, Faso and Tea­chout dis­agreed about why health in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums un­der the fed­eral Af­ford­able Care Act are be­com­ing more ex­pen­sive.

Tea­chout said the pre­mi­ums were in­creas­ing be­cause big in­sur­ance and phar­macy com­pa­nies have too much power. She said “Big Pharma” is giv­ing cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions and hir­ing lob­by­ists to have that power and that Congress should in­ves­ti­gate.

Faso said pre­mi­ums were go­ing up be­cause the act, com­monly called Oba­macare, was col­laps­ing un­der its own weight. He said that’s be­cause there was an as­sump­tion that younger, health­ier peo­ple would be join­ing the sys­tem and sup­port­ing pre­mi­ums for older peo­ple, but it didn’t hap­pen.

To fix the prob­lem, he said, there needs to be a sys­tem that is more pa­tient-cen­tered, with an in­creased num­ber of health­care providers and the abil­ity for ev­ery per­son to have a flex­i­ble sav­ings ac­count in which to put money for rou­tine health care.

On the topic of So­cial Se­cu­rity, Faso also said the sys­tem should not be pri­va­tized but that young peo­ple should be given the op­tion to set aside more of their in­come be­fore taxes to sup­port their re­tire­ment.

Tea­chout said fix­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity should in­clude rais­ing the cap on taxed in­come and that she is com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing and ex­pand­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity.

Asked about the pres­i­den­tial race, Faso said he has been fo­cused on the 19th Con­gres­sional District. He said, though, that he dis­agrees with Repub­li­can can­di­date Don­ald Trump on im­mi­gra­tion.

“I dis­agree with him on a lot of the rhetoric that I’ve heard,” Faso said. “I dis­agree with him on a num­ber of other ar­eas. So [I] find my­self, like many Amer­i­cans, think­ing, in a coun­try of 320 mil­lion peo­ple, this is our choice?”

Tea­chout said she be­lieves Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton will be the next pres­i­dent.

“I be­lieve Don­ald Trump is un­fit to be pres­i­dent,” she said, “not just be­cause of rhetoric or poli­cies, but be­cause of ac­tively boast­ing about sex­ual as­sault; be­cause of, in broad strokes, de­scrib­ing whole dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties.”

Tea­chout said it is im­por­tant to stand up against the rise of some­one like Trump.

Faso, a for­mer state as­sem­bly­man, has lived in the district for decades, while Tea­chout, a law pro­fes­sor at Ford­ham Univer­sity, moved there just be­fore launch­ing her cam­paign. Her name is not un­fa­mil­iar to district res­i­dents, though, thanks to her Demo­cratic pri­mary elec­tion chal­lenge to Demo­cratic Gov. An­drew Cuomo in 2014.

Faso made un­suc­cess­ful statewide runs for gover­nor in 2006, when he was de­feated by Eliot Spitzer, and state comptroller in 2002, when he was de­feated by Alan Hevesi.

The 19th Con­gres­sional District in­cludes all of Ul­ster, Greene and Columbia coun­ties, most of Dutchess County and some or all of seven other coun­ties.


Con­gres­sional can­di­dates John Faso, left, and Ze­phyr Tea­chout wait to be in­tro­duced at Thurs­day night’s de­bate in Kingston.

Con­gres­sional can­di­dates Ze­phyr Tea­chout, left, and John Faso par­tic­i­pate in Thurs­day evening’s de­bate at Con­gre­ga­tion Emanuel in Kingston.

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