Tester in Baker to discuss health care

The Fallon County Times

U.S. Senator Jon Tester visited the Fallon Medical Complex Nov. 13 for a roundtable discussion with staff and board members.

Tester said he wanted to hear from "folks in frontier communi¬ties" as the debate over health care reform moves through Congress. The U.S. House passed its version of health care reform in early November, but the Senate has yet to begin debate on its version of the legislation.

Tester made Baker a part of his recent swing through eastern Montana last week. "I want to find out what your concerns are and get your view," Tester said as he opened Friday's hour-long meet-ing.

"We're all living and breathing health care," CEO David Espeland said. "It's difficult to see our seniors make ends meet."

Ordinary Montanans struggling to make ends meet, Tester replied, is the "reason we need to fix the system."

Board member Rich Menger asked Tester several questions about how health care reform will affect people who already have coverage through health insurance plans or through Medicare.

"If you like your coverage, you'll be able to keep it," Tester said, adding that if Medicare changes, it will only become stronger. Tester said there are pro¬posals to save billions of dollars by eliminating waste in Medicare much of it by cutting repeat ser¬vices.

Chief Financial Officer Selena Nelson noted that Fallon Medical Complex is the county's largest employer, and that several compa¬nies have recently moved to Baker because of the quality of its health care facility.

Tester agreed that a health care system that works is "a good eco¬nomic development tool to boot". Another concern brought up dur¬ing Friday's roundtable included the county's shortage of health care providers. Nursing Director Sarah Maynard said it's difficult to recruit health care providers in Baker.

Tester was also asked about his stance on the public option – a sys¬tem that would make health insur¬ance available through the U.S. government. Regarding the public option, Tester said, "The devil's in the details.

It depends on how it is structured. I think if it can be self- sufficient – like co-ops – then I'd take a look at it."

After the roundtable, Tester toured the Fallon Medical Com¬plex. His visit to eastern Montana included similar roundtables in several other communities includ¬ing Broadus, .Ekalaka, Glendive, Circle and Jordan.

Tester said he is interested in hearing concerns from all Montanans about health care. His nearest office, in Glen- dive, can be reached at 406-365¬2391 or toll free 866-554-4403.