I-O joins Tester with conference call

By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor

The Independent-Observer joined up with Sen. Jon Tester on Thursday morning for a monthly conference call.

A wide variety of subjects were covered during the call.

I-O Editor Buck Traxler asked the senator to comment on a bill to protect rural hospitals and patients.

Senator Tester (D) and Pat Roberts (R), have introduced a bill to improve rural medical care and protect Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) by eliminating a rule that could led to doctors discharging patients too soon and could prevent hospitals from being fully reimbursed for their services.

“This is hot-lined for the Senate,” said Tester, “and for the House.”

The bill removes a requirement that doctors at CAH hospitals certify that a patient will be discharged or transferred in less than 96 hours.

The Senators say current law could lead to an early discharge from a hospital followed by re-admission, as well as improper reimbursement for hospitals if treating a patient takes longer than expected.

Roberts, in a written comment noted, “This rule requires a doctor to be clairvoyant and predict the unknown at the time of admission, instead of focusing on treating a patient to the best of their abilities.”

Both Tester and Roberts are members of the Senate Rural Health Caucus.

In a related health issue, the Senator noted that his bill to protect rural health services had been approved by the senate and a unanimous vote.

This bill protects Americas’ access to critical outpatient therapy services.

Tester said, “When folks get sick, the last thing they need is the added burden of having to travel long distances to get the care they need.”He went on to add, “Washington’s one-size-fits-all solutions often don’t work, and this bill allows folks in rural communities to receive care at local CAH hospitals.”

The Senator also noted that the president will be releasing his budget soon and “I’ll be taking a hard look at that.” He also touched on his upcoming business workshop to be held at Carroll College in Helena.

Tester commented on a Senate vote to repeal the one percent reduction in military retirees’ Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA).

“Folks in Montana want a common-sense budget, but not one that balances its books on the backs of veterans who signed up to fight for our country.”

There were comments on the Keystone Pipe Line project, which he favors, Sen. John Walsh coming on board to replace Max Baucus who is now the Ambassador to China, the passage of the long-term Farm Bill, the in-action of the Forest Service Jobs Bill, the minimum wage, which he supports, and a postal bill that he voted against because, “it was a bad bill.”

He also noted that he is pushing on getting U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year, as the president has said.

Once a month the Senator meets with editors, reporters, and TV and radio media from across the state to cover topics of interest within their coverage area.