HEALTH CARE LEAD­ERS urge bi­par­ti­san fix.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - FRANK E. LOCK­WOOD

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

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