(Washington, D.C.) Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers was disappointed today to vote against the Children’s Health Insurance and Medicare Protection Act (CHAMP), which will have a negative impact on Eastern Washington health Care. The bill will force two hospitals in Okanagan County to close their doors to patients and will cause over 10,000 seniors in Eastern Washington to loose the choice and benefits available with their current health insurance plan.
“I wholeheartedly support renewing this program and providing low-income children with health insurance,” said McMorris Rodgers. “I also support access to health care for seniors and don’t believe it should have to be a choice of supporting one over the other. But what concerns we most about this bill, is that it would force the hospitals in Omak and Tonasket to close. If these hospitals shut down, people in Okanogan County, both young and old, will be left without access to health care. Expanded health insurance for children is important, but not on the back of seniors and our rural hospitals.”
North Valley Hospital in Tonasket and Mid-Valley Hospital in Omak are part of The Wenatchee Valley Medical Center hospital system. It is a 100 percent physician-owned and directed hospital system. Section 651 of the CHAMP Act would prohibit hospitals from being more than 40 percent physician-owned.
“Should Section 651 be enacted into law as written, we foresee the likely closure of the Wenatchee Valley Medical Center and our outlying facilities in the next few years,” said CEO David Weber, MD in a letter. “We have concluded that selling 60% of our hospital as required by Section 651, and preventing Wenatchee Valley Medical Center from growing beyond it’s current bed size, is non-sustainable, a death-knell.”
North Valley Hospital and Mid-Valley Hospital serve over 40,000 residents in Okanogan County. If these hospitals shut down, people in Okanogan County would have to travel to Ferry County Hospital in Republic, which would become the next closest hospital. That is why McMorris Rodgers and Congressman Doc Hastings worked to remove this provision from the bill.
In addition, the CHAMP Act includes $193 billion in cuts to seniors’ Medicare benefits. Over 157,000 seniors in Washington state and over 10,000 seniors in Eastern Washington would loose their health care provided by Medicare Advantage Plans. These seniors will now be forced to pay for prescription drugs out-of-pocket, face higher premiums, and have a hard time finding a primary care physician because many don’t accept new traditional Medicare patients. This bill includes cuts to inpatient care, inpatient rehabilitation services, oxygen services, skilled nursing facilities and home health care services
“I am sick to hear that I may loose my current Medicare Advantage Plan,” said Barbara Fine, a 75 year old senior from Walla Walla. “Without this plan I would not be able to have health insurance because it would be too expensive; I can’t afford higher premiums. My current plan has offered me excellent health insurance at a reasonable cost. I have been encouraging all my friends to sign up for this plan and I don’t know what I would do without it.”
McMorris Rodgers voted in favor of a Republican alternative bill that provides health care to low-income children, protects seniors’ health care, removes the provision that would force the two hospitals in Okanagan County to close, and contains a full “fix” for Washington state to allow them to receive all of the enhanced federal funds for children.