Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

August 16, 2013

McConnell pays a visit to OLBH

Senator discusses Affordable Care Act

RUSSELL — U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took aim at the Affordable Care Act on Friday during a visit to Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital.

He told a room of about 40 hospital staff, “I don’t think anything about this is going to lead to better health care or to a better America. Nothing about it.”

McConnell seemed to be distancing himself from remarks he made earlier in the week during a television interview that, “there are a handful of things in the 2,700-page bill that are probably okay.”

Instead, on Friday McConnell said he opposed the bill in its entirety. “Things that can’t work won’t,” he said of President Obama’s health care reform package.

But OLBH and its parent company, Bon Secours Health Care, disagrees.

“We are a Catholic hospital so we support Obamacare,” said OLBH CEO Kevin Halter after McConnell left. “Certainly not everything we agree with. I think there are a lot of good things that have come out of Obamacare, but there are some things that are challenging, like anything else.”

Halter stressed Friday’s visit by the senator should not be taken as a partisan maneuver by OLBH. He said the hospital welcomes any member of Kentucky’s congressional delegation to visit. “It was good to hear his perspective on health care reform,” Halter said.

According to McConnell, his stop at OLBH was his 44th hospital town hall meeting since the passage of the massive health care reform bill in 2010. His remarks Friday were very similar to those given on his other stops, where he also criticized the reform effort and expressed his wish to “pull it out root and branch.”

Although McConnell called the original goal of health care reform — to insure the roughly 40 million Americans without health care coverage — “laudable,” he went on the next 30 minutes to describe why he believes Obamacare will ultimately fail. As he has before, McConnell called it “too complicated” and the “first step” toward a European-style single-payer system, he believes would ultimately lead to health care “rationing.”

He described the ACA as taking “a meat axe to the medical health care system, when I think we would have been better off to take out a scalpel and work on reducing the number of people without health insurance.”  He also criticized the plan for “raiding Medicaid,” “cutting reimbursements to providers” and “raising taxes.”

“Cost is the issue. I think if we had focused on a couple of things we could have dramatically reduced the number of people without insurance,” said McConnell. Medical malpractice reform and creating a national health care market “that put all insurance companies in a competitive model against each other,” would have worked better to “drive health care costs down and quality up,” McConnell said.

 McConnell said he was not being partisan in his criticism because other notable democrats have expressed their dissatisfaction with the bill, too.

“I wish I could leave here giving you some hope, but I think this whole trend is very, very troubling. The hope I have is that this new bill becomes so unpopular that the majority, which originally thought it was the best thing since the Ten Commandments, is going to open up to revisiting, in significant ways, the whole matter. That hasn’t happened yet, but there are some cracks developing,” he said.

Prior to the town hall, McConnell met behind closed doors with the hospital’s management team. During the 30 minutes he spent with hospital staff, he took several questions from health care workers, but not the press.

Melissa Mahaney, director of home health services, was one of three workers to question McConnell. She asked how he stood on additional cuts being proposed to home health care, which is slated to take a 14 percent cut. McConnell said he was “against it” and encouraged home health workers to complain. “Your industry is well represented in Washington. They do a good job of banging on our doors, and they should. That’s the way it works,” he said.

McConnell said he couldn’t answer another question posed by Brent Kimball, director of business development and services, about when some of the confusion over implementation might be resolved. “I don’t have a clue. We should have not done a 2,700-page bill backed up by 20,000 pages of regulations. There is no way to make that simple,” McConnell said.

Justin Fuller, director of clinical informatics, asked if $19 billion set aside to fund investment in electronic medical records is still going to be available to hospitals who have pursued them at the encouragement of the federal government. “I don’t know enough about the details to answer that. But I can get you the details,” McConnell replied.

In closing, McConnell praised health care workers and the job they have done over the last 60 plus years in improving the life expectancy of Americans. “America has, unless we foul it up, the best health care in the world,” he said.

Following the event, McConnell shook hands with departing hospital staff, but refused to answer questions about his re-election campaign posed by the press. “This is not a campaign stop. You have enough to write about,” he said before being ushered out of the building.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com.

Text Only
Local News
  • jeremymccombs.jpg Jeremy McComb enjoys Tri-State's limelight

    Jeremy McComb’s career has been a wild ride, especialy in the last week.
    The lead single from his latest album was released on iTunes last week and it was a huge success right from the start.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Festival to showcase new plays

    The ACTC New Play Festival will feature 10 student and faculty written plays (short scenes, monologues, ten-minutes, one acts) that will premiere at 8 p.m. April 25 and 26 and at 2:30 p.m. April 27 at J.B. Sowards Theater on campus.

    April 17, 2014

  • 0420mongol1.JPG A ride to remember

    Riding 50 miles a day is no big deal to Amy Whelan.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0418melodies.jpg Melodies & Masterpieces returns Friday

    Anyone strolling through downtown Ashland at lunchtime Friday will have a chance to enjoy the artistry of one of the area’s most-respected guitarists as Chris Kitchen kicks off the return of the Melodies & Masterpieces series on Judd Plaza.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418odell.jpg MSU professor appointed state geographer

    Dr. Gary O’Dell, a professor of physical geography at Morehead State University, was named state geographer in January.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill to benefit AK Steel

    During the 11th hour of the General Assembly, a bill extending important sustainable incentives for AK Steel’s Ashland Works was pushed through for approval Tuesday night.
    House Bill 483 was created to extend the plant's incentives provided by the Kentucky Industrial Revitalization Act in 2004.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pathways begins autism services

    Pathways has extended its community outreach in a big way by providing services for families facing autism.
    Lena Harmon, central director for the company's Kentucky Impact Youth Council, said these services can save families the trouble of being added to long queue lines in Cincinnati and Louisville.
    Harmon said she has heard some families testify having to wait up to 12 months for appointments in faraway cities.

    April 16, 2014

  • Russell academic new dean at OUS

    Nicole Pennington chose a two-year community college degree track in 1991 because she wanted to enter the nursing work force with as little delay as possible.

    April 16, 2014

  • 1936 Indian lasting wedding gift

    When it came time to present his future wife with a symbol of his undying devotion, Virgil Erskine gave her a 1936 Indian motorcycle instead of a diamond ring.
    “I’ve always called it my wedding present. It’s my diamond ring,” said Charlene Erskine, explaining she and her husband were married at Sturgis, S.D., in 1983, found the antique Indian Sport Scout in 1984 and had it restored and on the road in 1985.

    April 16, 2014

  • Boyd Democrats take floor at Elks

    Boyd County Democrats met at the Elks Lodge for a matchup between candidates for two of the hottest primary races in Boyd County: sheriff and judge-executive.
    The candidates, sponsored by the Boyd County Democratic Women’s Club, each took to the podium to face the crowd Tuesday night and discuss the candidacy and platforms for the race that is still over a month away.

    April 15, 2014