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U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling Speaks to Palestine Regional Medical Center Administrators and Physicians

7/6/2012

U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, held an informal round table discussion with top administrators and physicians Monday at Palestine Regional Medical Center, gathering their input about the recently-upheld Affordable Care Act.

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s health care law by a slim 5-4 margin.

During Monday’s round table, Hensarling said the president’s plan removes “a half trillion dollars” from Medicaid and ultimately may threaten the existence of some community hospitals such as Palestine Regional Medical Center.

The congressman said one of the surveys he has seen shows “that 45 percent of Medicaid providers are going to quit providing services.”

Alan George, PRMC’s chief executive officer, said the hospital is among the county’s largest employers with an annual payroll of approximately $30 million.

“America’s got to decide whether they want community hospitals...or basically have large hospitals in major markets,” George offered during Monday’s discussion.

If community hospitals eventually get forced out of the marketplace, Hensarling said, “I guess people in Palestine will have to go to Tyler and maybe even Dallas.”

As “a limited government conservative,” Hensarling admitted Monday he was “fairly distraught” over last Thursday’s Supreme Court decision which saw Chief Justice John Roberts break ranks with the court’s conservative wing and essentially cast the deciding vote.

If Republicans are able to regain the White House in November, Hensarling said he is hopeful the GOP will be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

One physician attending Monday’s discussion said the federal government should consider higher taxes on certain luxury items and unhealthy foods, with that revenue going to fund the country’s health care.

Hensarling politely disagreed.

“It’s not my approach to be punitive,” Hensarling responded. “It’s still the land of the free.”

The congressman compared such an approach to the recent plan of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to outlaw 32 ounce bottles of soft drinks.

“I don’t want the government telling me I have to eat broccoli on Tuesdays or they’re going to tax me,” said Hensarling, who runs two miles a day, “or that I have to join a health club or they’re going to tax me.”

At one point, Hensarling asked the handful of physicians in attendance if they would encourage their children to “follow their footsteps” in today’s climate and become a doctor.

“Absolutely not,” one quickly replied.

Most of the others had similar responses.

“What that tells me is the best and brightest are not going to medical school (in the future),” Hensarling said. “...It will be the C-plus student instead of the A-plus student and that frightens me.”

The congressman’s goal is for Americans to be able to have affordable, portable and high quality “patient centered” health care.

Many of the “troubling aspects” of today’s health care system are related to some citizens’ abuse of it.

“I want a true social safety net system,” Hensarling said, “but what we’re getting is a spider web of learned dependency.”

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