Conrad: Health care reform act helps JRMCWhile one of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign promises is to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care reform, Sen. Kent Conrad’s visit to Jamestown Regional Medical Center Thursday focused on the importance of maintaining such reform and the negative implications if it was repealed.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
While one of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign promises is to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care reform, Sen. Kent Conrad’s visit to Jamestown Regional Medical Center Thursday focused on the importance of maintaining such reform and the negative implications if it was repealed.
“If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, you’re talking about adding $1.3 trillion to the debt,” Conrad said. “In other words, one-thousand, three-hundred billion dollars — billion. That’s a huge amount of money.”
Conrad said health care reform, especially the Frontier Amendment, is extremely important to North Dakota.
Conrad authored the Frontier Amendment as part of 2010’s Affordable Care Act. It boosts Medicare reimbursement levels for North Dakota hospitals and doctors, which Conrad said means more than $650 million coming into the state over the next 10 years.
“Senator (Byron) Dorgan, Congressman (Earl) Pomeroy and I worked hard on this legislation for many years. North Dakota used to be at or near the bottom of Medicare reimbursements and now we’re at or around the national average,” he said. “That $650 million over the next decade is a huge amount of money.”
Repeal of the Affordable Care Act would mean termination of the amendment as well — something Conrad believes would hurt not only North Dakota, but the entire country.
“My answer to health care is to amend it, not end it. And we don’t have to destroy Medicare completely in order to save it — there are savings we can make,” he said.
Conrad also spoke to JRMC officials Thursday about maintaining JRMC as a critical access hospital (CAH).
“We earned critical access status 15 years ago and I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep that — especially for smaller communities like Jamestown,” he said.
CAHs are hospitals certified to receive cost-based reimbursement from Medicare, which is then intended to improve their financial performance and thereby reduce hospital closures.
CAHs must be located more than 35 miles from another hospital, according to the Rural Assistance Center website which provides health and human services information for rural communities.
Conrad stressed how important it was to maintain health care reform in order to assist not only urban hospitals, but rural ones like JRMC.
“Without having outstanding hospitals in major cities, it hurts local hospitals, too.”
In addition, Conrad said he was impressed by JRMC — something he said he fought hard to find federal funding for but had not seen in person since it opened in July 2011.
“It doesn’t get much better than this,” he said. “This is a world-class place and this community truly is a blessing to the state of North Dakota.”
Conrad is retiring after this term — his 26th and final year in the U.S. Senate — after being originally elected to the seat in 1986.
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org