HEALTH CARE LEADERS urge bipartisan fix.
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers must work together to fix the nation’s flawed public health system, three Arkansas health care leaders said Friday.
Hours after the U.S. Senate defeated an overhaul of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Arkansas health professionals urged elected officials to focus on finding solutions.
“It’s time that the Republicans and the Democrats got together and represented all the people in the United States, not just part of them,” said David Wroten, Arkansas Medical Society executive vice president.
“Health care affects every single person in this country, and it’s too big an issue for partisanship to continue to drive the discussion in Washington. We desperately need the two parties to get together and work on fixing the things in the Affordable Care Act that don’t work,” he said.
Chad Aduddell, chief executive officer of CHI St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock, also urged Congress to come together.
“The solutions to health care for our country require more than one political party. It’s not a Republican plan or a Democratic plan. It’s going to require all stakeholders,” he said.
A lot is at stake, he said, noting that health care now accounts for nearly 20 percent of the U.S. economy.
If members of Congress can’t cooperate and if the status quo remains in place, “the system will continue to fail. Costs will continue to rise. Health care delivery systems will ultimately fail. Hospitals will go out of business. Patients will be impacted. It’s an unsustainable model,” he said.
Bo Ryall, president and chief executive officer of the Arkansas Hospital Association, expressed relief that millions of Americans won’t be giving up health insurance.
“The three plans that were voted on this week, [the Congressional Budget Office] projected that they were going to cut the number of insured by anywhere from, I believe, 16 million to 32 million,” he said.
“Any reduction in those insured patients is a significant hit to hospitals,” he said. “It could be devastating to some hospitals to have their uncompensated care … go up significantly.”
Like the others, Ryall called for a bipartisan approach.
“I think Congress needs to get together on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “The process needs to start over and everybody needs to try to work together.”
Caitlynn Moses, a founder of Ozark Indivisible, welcomed Friday morning’s vote.
The group had lobbied to keep the Affordable Care Act.
“We are ecstatic over here in Arkansas. Super-excited,” she said.
She praised the senator from Arizona who cast the crucial vote.
“Sen. [John] McCain is a senator that has values and morals and he’s always been a man with integrity. He’s a national hero, and I think he understands the importance of the health care vote for millions of people.”
In a written statement, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said that the current system “is badly in need of reform, and there must be change.”
“I am supportive of continuing the effort to fix our current health care system with more flexibility for the states and tools for Arkansas to continue its path of reform while maintaining access to affordable health care for our citizens. There are proposals on the table that will accomplish this, but the Senate has not been able to come to an agreement on a way to get there. Last night was an opportunity to move a step closer to a new health care bill. Even though the effort failed, I am hopeful the Congress will not give up on reform and that the states will have a strong voice on any new efforts,” he said.
U.S. Rep. French Hill said House members are disappointed that the Senate failed to act. But the Republican from Little Rock said the issue isn’t going away.
“I believe that we should continue to work and continue to talk to our colleagues because the status quo is not an acceptable outcome,” he said.
“The Affordable Care Act is failing and hurting a lot of families and providing uncertainty in the insurance markets,” he said.
Although the House is beginning the August recess, its members have been told to be on call, “so that we can come back and work with the Senate on a bill that will lower costs and increase competition and give our states more flexibility,” Hill added.
Spokesmen for U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton — who voted for the legislation — and U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman said the lawmakers were unavailable for comment Friday.
In a written statement, Cotton promised to continue working to fix the health care system.
“We cannot simply walk away from health care as Obamacare continues its death spiral,” he said.
In a written statement, Boozman said lawmakers can’t give up.
“It’s time to work together to find a way forward that ensures access to quality and affordable care for all Americans.”
In a written statement, Womack said the Senate had failed to “rid the country of the collapsing Obamacare mandates. I am deeply saddened that we have come to this point as a Congress.”
Wroten of the Arkansas Medical Society said a lot is riding on the outcome.
“Everybody is affected. It’s very high stakes. We’ve got careers that depend upon having a health care system that works. People’s lives are in the balance,” he said.
“Health care affects every single person in this country, and it’s too big an issue for partisanship to continue to drive the discussion in Washington.”
— David Wroten, Arkansas Medical Society executive vice president