Health care reform concerns voiced in Northwest MT

Montana's News Station

Lawmakers plan to once again tackle health care reform when they return to Washington, DC after the Thanksgiving break.

Some hospital officials in northwest Montana recently voiced some of their concerns to Senator Jon Tester during a jobs creation roundtable earlier this week.

The Democrat says they need to end up with a bill that saves money.

"This is going to be making the health care work for families and small businesses, and right now we have a health care system that doesn't work for either one" Tester commented. "We're spending too much money, we spend 16.5% of our Gross National Product on healthcare, the next closest country is at 10.5%. We need to figure out a way to get that affordable again."

St. Luke's Hospital's Steve Todd says that they're concerned about the government's ability to tackle health care reform, adding that the healthcare industry is highly regulated and tort reform is what's needed.

"All the hoops and things you have to go through just simply to get a bill paid through Medicare and anything else, so it scares me about what might happen as health care reform develops."

A $28 million expansion was finished at St. Luke's hospital last year and they are hiring people, but officials say many other hospitals don't have access to capital to develop.

"Health care doesn't drop when the economy drops, people don't stop getting sick, they just stop paying the bills" Todd added. "So, we're seeing a higher level uncompensated care, and bad debts rising, and charity applications increasing, and that's concerning because ultimately what does that mean for the bottom line and our ability to pay our bills."

Senator Tester says it's important to get healthcare affordable again.

"We've got to end up with a bill that saves money, the bill that's up that we're going to be debating over the next month reduces the national debt over the next 10 years by $130 billion. That's significant…$650 billion the decade after that because that's when the prevention and wellness aspects kick in."

Senator Tester posted the Senate health care bill on his website, which can be seen by clicking here.