U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik spoke with members of the Medical Society of the State of New York Saturday in Lake Placid about a Republican-led effort to reform the Affordable Care Act.
The Mirror Lake Inn’s conference room was filled with around two dozen doctors and health care professionals eager to hear the congresswoman’s perspective and to offer their own input on the current state of health care. Stefanik, 30, a Republican from Willsboro who has been on the job for about three weeks, addressed the room for several minutes about her health care goals, and afterward there was a more extensive question-and-answer period.
Stefanik said her goals include having both high-quality and cost-effective treatment, and increasing health care accessibility for rural communities. Because “health care is a complicated issue,” Stefanik said she would make an effort to reach out to hospitals, patients and physicians.
“These groups need to be represented,” Stefanik said.
Dave Welch, a doctor from Saranac Lake, told Stefanik that making “little repairs to a broken system clearly isn’t working” and said that a whole new approach to health care is needed.
“Now that we have a new Congress fully controlled by one party, what kind of new concepts are coming up?” Welch asked.
Stefanik said there is not a specific health care replacement package being presented by Republicans yet, but it will happen.
“I think the most important part of formulating a replacement package is making sure that you have input from physicians, from hospitals,” Stefanik said. “I think that over the course of 2015 you will see a replacement package.
“I think there is going to be a willingness to work with Democrats, something that I think was a failure of the Obama administration,” she added. “Certainly, I believe the Republicans have a responsibility to put forth a replacement package.”
Stefanik told the group she was optimistic about the repeal of the Medical Device Tax, which is an excise tax on the sale of certain medical devices. She said a repeal of the tax has bipartisan support and that it would likely pass the House and Senate.
“It’s strategically smart for Obama to approve,” she said.
There are medical device companies located within the 21st Congressional District, which the congresswoman represents. The repeal of the medical tax was a campaign issue the congresswoman ran on.
Stefanik, when asked about medical malpractice lawsuit reform, said the Republican leadership like Rep. Paul Ryan ,R-Wis., want to make sure “tort reform is part of the package.”
Some doctors also raised concerns about “confusing” medical diagnostic codes to describe a patient’s injury and how the doctor treated it. The system existed before the ACA, but the act added thousands of new codes, which some doctors said was an added burden.
“We are given X amount of time to see a patient, and now I need to take 20 minutes to figure out the code,” said Hal Sokol, a pulmonary critical care doctor from Albany.
After the meeting, some of the doctors in the room expressed approval of Stefanik’s remarks. A few of them described the group of doctors as being conservative-leaning.
Robert Hughes, a doctor from Queensbury, said he thought Stefanik was “very astute” and “perceptive of the reality of what is going on right now.”
Sokol said he was a lot more impressed than he thought he would be.
“I think she really cares,” he said.
John Kennedy, a doctor from Schenectady, told the room Stefanik and his daughter were high school classmates at the Albany Academy for Girls.
“Two years ago my daughter said, ‘My friend Elise is the real thing; she ought to run for Congress,’” Kennedy said.
Welch said he was concerned Republicans are still creating a plan but added that it’s also an opportunity to get health care right.
“Republicans have spent the last two years saying no, and now they have to come forward with something positive,” he said. “My concern is they don’t have a plan yet.”