April 17, 2019 — U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio hosted a Healthcare Town Hall in the Bromley Room at the Siuslaw Public Library on Tuesday. PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Chief Administrative Officer Jason Hawkins appeared with the congressman and provided perspective from his role as a leader in the local medical community.
DeFazio, Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, represents the 4th District of Oregon and convened the meeting to provide constituents with an update on a variety of health care related subjects. In February, he co-sponsored “The Medicare for All Act,” H.R. 1384, which is intended to address issues that have arisen from the series of changes made to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by President Donald Trump’s administration over the past two years.
The legislation is currently working its way through multiple committees to determine the impact the bill would have on the areas the committees are tasked with overseeing.
“Although the ACA dramatically reduced the number of uninsured individuals, it has been in great need of improvement since day one,” DeFazio said. “In my opinion, a government-run, not-for-profit health plan would have paved the way to a single-payer system with more comprehensive coverage at a lower cost.”
He added, “The Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court. I have always said the law is not perfect, and I have been vocal about needed improvements such as antitrust protections and individual mandate reform. I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make common sense changes to the Affordable Care Act.”
DeFazio began his remarks Tuesday by providing the audience with a brief recap of the history of the ACA and explained what prompted his decision to co-sponsor H.R. 1384.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t made a lot of progress in improving the ACA, although we do have an opportunity this year, now that we have taken over the House of Representatives,” he said. “The Trump administration has joined in a lawsuit, with the state of Texas, which would totally repeal the ACA, without a plan in place to replace the ACA. Now, the president says he will have a plan after the next election.”
DeFazio was adamant that displacing the 29 million Americans that are now covered by the ACA without providing an alternative was unacceptable.
While Hawkins was cautious when discussing his impressions of the ACA and the topic’s potential to become political, he was supportive of the changes in the health care system since the ACA was adopted.
“I think the Affordable Care Act has brought our country back together in a lot of ways,” Hawkins said. “It requires the hospital to go out and survey the community to understand what is happening in the community. What comes out of that is that we find out what the problems are and how we should address those problems. One thing I have noticed is the rate of inflationary growth has subsided significantly since the ACA became law. It used to be double digit growth each year and now it’s single digit growth.”
There was a full house at the town hall. When the congressman turned to the public comment segment of the meeting, the majority of questioners were concerned with the costs associated with prescription medications.
DeFazio agreed that prescription costs were one of the primary elements of the ACA that he felt should be replaced and he pointed to one of the requirements he feels should be included in any replacement for the program.
“Every other industrial or developed government on Earth negotiates drug prices for their citizens, and we should too. Right now, we negotiate prices for the VA, but not for everyone, and I think that should change,” DeFazio said.
DeFazio said he understands that the fight to replace the ACA with something that provides similar benefits without a reduction in coverage or rejection for pre-existing conditions will be difficult, but that he remains optimistic that a solution can be found if both parties work together.
“We are hoping to generate a groundswell, across the country, of people saying, ‘Heck No, we aren’t going backwards. We want to move forward and make our health care better and less expensive,’” DeFazio said.