Q&A with Congressman Shuler

SMN: What did you learn from the teletown meeting? Anything new?

Heath Shuler: “The meeting reinforced my belief that most people don’t fully understand what is in the health-care reform bill and they have many valid questions about it. It also showed that we shouldn’t rush to pass this bill that will have a dramatic effect on most Americans’ lives.”

Why do a teletown meeting, rather than a regular regular town hall meeting?

“I decided to hold a tele-town hall meeting because I wanted to explain my position on health care reform and listen to constituents’ questions and comments without the grandstanding from political groups. It also allowed constituents in the western region to dial in from their own homes rather than having to drive hours to attend.”

How much have you been affected by the grassroots efforts on both sides?

“I listen to all my constituents, but at the end of the day, I still must vote for what I feel is right for the people of Western North Carolina. While I support health-care reform, I still oppose the H.R. 3200 legislation.”

There is a wellness, disease management, and prevention aspect in the bill. What specifically would you add to that? How much could focusing on this bring down costs?

“I’d like to see more tax benefits for individuals and companies to promote wellness and prevention. I’m looking at several proposals on this currently. The problem is that it’s hard for government agencies to quantify saving from wellness and prevention programs. But it makes sense that spending money on prevention will save costs down the road.”

Same with preventing waste, fraud and abuse – what specific measures would you add to the bill that aren’t already there?

“One item is streamlining medical codes for all procedures. Doctors often can get paid different prices for the same procedure depending on which medical procedure code they use to bill.”

H.R.3200 proposes that small businesses with under $500,000 in payroll be exempt from providing health care to their employees. What is your opinion on that proposal?

“I oppose any measure that mandates that business provide health care benefits and would saddle small businesses with higher costs at a time when many already are struggling in these economic times.”

Are you for or against having a public option for health care?

“So far, I have not seen a public-option proposal that I can support.”

What do you hope accomplish with the next tele-town hall meeting?

“I want to continue to listen to my constituents about their thoughts on health care and answer as many questions as possible.”

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