By: JAY FRIESS
As Senate Republicans were preparing Tuesday morning to push for a vote to repeal the landmark health care reform bill passed by Democrats last year, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) was in Leonardtown, selling the merits of the bill.
Minority Whip Hoyer told a gathering of senior citizens and St. Mary's officials at the Garvey Senior Center that the bill could stave off catastrophic increases in Medicare premiums and would slash the cost of preventative care and prescription drugs.
Hoyer said that this St. Mary's County stop was one of several health care sessions he plans to hold across the 5th Congressional District in the coming months. "There are a lot of people who are trying to scare seniors" by telling them they will lose their Medicare coverage, Hoyer said. "That is not true."
Hoyer said the health care bill passed last year shifted the focus of funding from catastrophic care to preventative care, making it cheaper for Medicare recipients to get services like annual checkups, flu shots, blood pressure screenings and colonoscopies with no co-pay fee. The bill also aims to cut brand-name prescription drug costs by 50 percent and generic drugs by 7 percent, he said.
"We were penny wise and pound foolish for not funding that," Hoyer said, noting that the new law is designed to help recipients detect illnesses and other problems and treat them before they require expensive emergency room visits and hospitalization.
County Commissioner Dan Morris (R) noted that St. Mary's County has 14 fewer general practice doctors than it needs. Hoyer replied that the entire country is experiencing a shortage of family doctors and said the health care law aims to boost their pay in order to encourage more medical students to set up general practices, rather than pursue lucrative specialist careers.
Janet Tippett of Hollywood said, "I think there has been more misinformation about this legislation than any in recent memory." She said President Obama needs to do more to educate the public about the complex law.
Beth Wright of Hollywood thanked Hoyer and his House colleagues who remained civil during the passage of the health care bill, saying they demonstrated "democracy working at its best in our country." She later admitted Hoyer was largely among friends, saying, "He's really preaching to the choir."