Healthcare took center stage in Thursday’s telephone town hall with Washington state’s Third Congressional District Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler. The issue was the common denominator among caller questions, and ranked number one in a phone survey of suggested congressional priorities.
In response to one caller’s concern that market-based healthcare plans would leave low-income families without viable options, Herrera Beutler spoke on the issue at length.
“It’s important to have a system that isn’t one-size-fits-all,” she said.
“I’m sure a lot of people on this call believe in single-payer systems. I usually point to the Veteran’s Administration as a good example of how a single-payer system can really limit access.”
She spoke in favor of market options, stating that most Americans only need insurance for the unexpected, not chronic conditions.
“The Market, in my view, is the best way to make sure they all get access to care.”
At the same time, Herrera Beutler spoke to the importance of maintaining “safety nets” for the most vulnerable.
“I don’t want to leave any of those people behind. We can do better than the bill that was put forward (the recently defeated Republican health care plan, which Herrera Beutler voted against), and we can do better than the current system.”
She criticized the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) for putting too many people on Medicaid, rendering the program ineffective for those who really need it.
“The Medicaid safety net — which was intended for low-income children, or the single mom, or the disabled senior — is breaking because the ACA put able-bodied, childless adults onto that system,” Herrera Beutler said.
She cited the Vancouver Clinic, which no longer accepts new Medicaid clients and is seeking to reduce the number of current ones, as an example of the problem.
“You may have insurance on paper, but it doesn’t translate to access to care,” Herrera Beutler said.
“Part of the way we protect these safety nets is to get people off them who shouldn’t be on them.”
Herrera Beutler also criticized the ACA for “enshrining” insurance companies in an environment of low competition and guaranteed payments.
“(Consumer choice) creates competition, and that competition (will) empower consumers and take insurance companies off the driver’s seat,” Herrera Beutler said.
Jaime Herrera Beutler represents Washington’s Third Congressional District, which includes part of western and central Washington, as well as Gorge counties Clark, Skamania and Klickitat. Last week, Herrera Beutler tackled citizen concerns during a telephone town hall.
She suggested a change to let small businesses band together across state lines to offer employees healthcare plans like unions and corporations can.
She also said the costs to self-insure are too prohibitive, and suggested people should be able to shop for plans in other states, as with auto-insurance.
In response to a Goldendale caller asking why Democrats and Republicans couldn’t come together on a solution, Herrera Beutler said the key to consensus ismore hearings with input from affected parties — including healthcare providers.
Lukewarm on Trump
Throughout the one and a half hour session, Herrera Beutler walked a figurative tightrope on the issues, reflecting the diverse political leanings of her district. She opposed President Donald Trump on several points, including proposed cuts to Meals on Wheels, National Institutes of Health, and salmon-run rehabilitation and protection.
Additionally, she said she would hold the president to his word on funding his proposed wall with payments from Mexico, not U.S. taxpayers, and is waiting to hear an articulated strategy on Syria and Afghanistan.
However, when asked if she would call for an independent investigation into the Trump administration’s alleged Russian ties, Herrera Beutler said that while she would support “any and all efforts” to uncover the truth, she believes the current investigation is sufficient for the time being.
“If these agencies unearth evidence, then I’m happy to move forward. If (the current investigation) isn’t working, we’ll call for an independent investigation. Right now, the process is working as it should.”