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Barrasso: Obamacare Forces Rural Doctors to Close Their Doors & Turn Away Seniors

September 13, 2012

Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) discussed a recent Associated Press article that details how the President’s health care law is making it harder for seniors who live in rural areas to find local doctors and good care.

Excerpts of Senator Barrasso’s remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate:

“That’s what I want to do today, talk about  the health care law’s impact specifically on our seniors who rely on Medicare for their health care.  Specifically, I want to talk about how the law will impact those living in rural and frontier areas like Wyoming.

“Now, I know it can be very challenging for people living in rural communities to get the care they need – especially from a doctor they choose.

“But the ‘Associated Press’ recently described this issue in an article entitled, ‘Boomers retiring to rural areas won’t find doctors.’

“The story highlighted the trouble of a Nina Musselman,  from rural Oregon and the trouble she had finding a new family physician when her previous doctor moved away.

“After a year of going to different physicians, who would treat her temporarily, she finally after a year, found a new permanent provider. The words she used to describe her experience were, ‘It’s a sad situation for seniors.’

“Well, unfortunately because of the President’s health care law, the situation for seniors, especially those living in rural communities, is only expected to get worse.

“The article not only confirms that fewer doctors are working in rural areas, but also that the program pays rural doctors less per procedure.

“This fact, combined with the cuts to the program scheduled to take place under the health care law, well it means that the seniors in rural areas will have greater difficulty finding a doctor to take care of them.

“Mark Pauly, a professor of health care management at the University of Pennsylvania put it this way, if the cuts to Medicare are allowed to go through, ‘The doctors are saying: ‘We’re out of here.’ 

“Professor Pauly adds, ‘The least they [the doctors] are saying is ‘We’ll treat Medicare patients like we treat Medicaid patients,’ which is mostly not.’

“Over the past two weeks, the Republican and Democratic parties held their nominating conventions. The nation had the opportunity to hear both Governor Romney and President Obama—hear from them about their accomplishments and visions for America.

“After hearing the President’s speech, I was struck that he barely mentioned his health care law.

“The newspaper Politico stated, ‘In back-to-back speeches, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden all but ignored the Affordable Care Act.’ 

“This isn’t surprising given the fact that the law remains deeply unpopular with the majority of the American people.

“In fact, latest Rasmussen Poll found that half of the people surveyed support repealing the health care law.

“The President and Washington Democrats might be trying to avoid the law.  As a physician who practiced in Wyoming, I believe the topic is too important to ignore.

“All seniors, especially those in rural America, need to know how this law will impact their ability to get the care they need.

“Previously the Institute of Medicine found that there are fewer primary care physicians as well as other medical specialists per capita in rural areas compared with urban areas.

“While people in rural America make up twenty percent of this nation’s population, they are only served by nine percent of our nation’s physicians.

“The Kaiser Family Foundation, beneficiaries in rural areas account for at least 60 percent of the Medicare populations in Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.

“This is why I have such a passion for ensuring that all our seniors, no matter where they live, can receive their Medicare benefits.

“Unfortunately, all of America knows that the President’s health care law made significant cuts, cuts to Medicare.  Specifically, the Congressional Budget Office told us that the law takes over $700 billion from the Medicare program. 

“This money will not be used to improve the health care received by seniors, but rather to pay for a whole new government program for someone else.

“In fact, if the cuts in the health care law are implemented, the non-partisan actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that Medicare payments for inpatient hospital services would eventually be only 39% of private insurance. 

“The situation facing physicians is not any better. 

“The actuary at CMS reported that in 2009 Medicare paid physicians approximately 80% of private insurance rates.

“Under current law if the cuts are allowed to move forward, Medicare will eventually only pay about 26% of the rate of private insurance.

“There is no question that the ramifications of these cuts will directly impact the ability of seniors to receive the health care they need.

“As Professor Timothy Jost noted in the New England Journal of Medicine, ‘If the gap between private and Medicare rates continues to grow, health care providers may well abandon Medicare.”

“For the millions of seniors that rely on Medicare, loosing access to the program is simply not acceptable.

“When the President passed his health care law he proudly stated that he was expanding health care coverage for millions of Americans. What he failed to mention is that this expanded coverage is being bought at the expense of American seniors.

“Washington Democrats have long argued that the cuts to Medicare will do two things at the same time.  They say it will expand health coverage for the uninsured and extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund.

“Now in Wyoming, and all across the country, people know that you cannot spend the same money twice. 

“But apparently the President and supporters of his health care law right here in this body, think they can.  Their logic defies basic math and it defies common sense.

“As a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, stated in a recent op-ed, ‘Any suggestion that Medicare will last longer is an illusion — not a fact.’

“America’s seniors cannot afford the spending illusions contained in the health care law.

“Congress must act and repeal the law, before Medicare is transformed from a vital program into an empty promise.”