Virginia Congressional hopefuls gathered in Harris Theatre to deliver their proposals about healthcare and to respond to specific policy questions from panel members on Wednesday night.
The candidates were each given fifteen minutes to present how they would improve healthcare in Virginia and in the nation. Speeches were followed by five minutes questions formulated by healthcare experts.
The night began with a brief address by university President Alan Merten, about George Mason University’s community involvement and the importance of the work conducted by Health and Human Services.
Tim Henderson, active Deputy Director for the Center For Health Policy Research and Ethics, led the panel asking the delegates questions on health policy. He shared the results of a survey by Kaiser Family Foundation to set the mood for the forum. According to the survey, paying for healthcare remains a problem for one in four Americans.
Chairman Gerry Connolly of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors was the first to speak. The Democratic congressional hopeful for the 11th District led off by telling an anecdote from his days as Chairman. He received a call from a woman, who said, ”I have a dead deer in my front lawn What are you going to do about it?” When he asked, ”Well, have you thought about calling animal control?,” she said. ”No, I didn’t want to bother them this early on a Sunday morning.” This story, he said, illustrates the accessibility of local politics that is lost on the federal level.
Connolly went on to address the issue of healthcare. We have to do something to make healthcare accessible and affordable to all Americans, Connolly claimed, but we cannot do that until concerns can be heard by legislators. He said that he could take that message to the federal level.
He also said that health insurance companies should not be able to cherry pick and exclude people based upon pre-existing health conditions.
“Insurance companies need a risk pool, and need to spread the risk across the board,” Connolly said. “I believe that there is a lot that can be done, I believe there is a lot that has to be done…We need to move to an electronic medical record system…the only caveat is that we need to be careful when considering rural healthcare systems and mandating an electronic medical record system because they have limited resources.”
Because of the event’s late start, Keith Fimian, the Republican congressional hopeful for the 11th District, was only able to speak briefly before leaving for another event. He stated that patients should be in charge of their healthcare and families should have refundable tax credits to purchase health insurance but that he would make sure that every dime he spent if elected would be spent as efficiently as possible.
He also stressed that there is an urgent need to reform malpractice liability and that the healthcare system should convert to an electronic medical record system. A tax credit should be granted to health care providers to help relieve IT expenses when converting.
Fimian did not mince words when it came to the fiscal reality currently facing America, saying that the tumult on Wall Street came from foreign creditors calling on their debt and that days of free credit were over. He said it was crucial to recognize the economic reality of the situation.
Virginia Delegate Mark Sickles, of the 43rd District, spoke on behalf of Democratic Congressman Jim Moran, of the 8th District. Sickles said that Moran is passionate about expanding health care for uninsured and underinsured, and supports the statewide healthcare plan of Massachusetts.
Sickles then concentrated on Senator John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) healthcare plan. Sickles said the plan would take away the deduction for providing health insurance given to employers and give a private tax credit of up to $5,000 for a family of four. However, Sickles said, if a family is not making enough money to pay $5,000 in taxes, it will not receive the credit.
Sickles stressed that Moran believes preventative healthcare would be the most efficient solution to growing costs and inefficiency. However, until people have guaranteed coverage and did not have to rely on the Emergency Room as a last resort, Moran does not think there would be much improvement.
The health forum was hosted by The Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics and The Department of Health Administration and Policy.