ROGERSVILLE -- U.S. Congressman Phil Roe, M.D., who serves on the House of Representative's Veteran’s Affairs Committee, told a Town Hall meeting in Rogersville on Monday evening that the current woes at the Veterans Administration has nothing to do with money or the lack of it.
“Money is not the problem,” he said. “Seven years ago the VA’s budget was $100 billion. Today, its over $180 billion.”
Roe wants to see the bureaucracy at the VA streamlined and to offer America’s military servicemen and women a “Veteran’s Choice Card” so that a patient can have the option of going to a VA facility or their own family doctor if they so choose.
“I want to put control back in the hands of the veterans,” he said.
A veteran himself, Roe served as a general medical officer in an infantry division in Korea more than 40 years ago.
“The VA could list me, or any physician, as a certified VA doctor,” he said. “I’ve got the bricks and mortar, the staff, the setup, I just happen to not be at the VA. With modern technology and electronic health records there’s no reason we shouldn’t do that.”
Roe said he personally worked on the “Sustainable Growth Rate” bill – relating to how Medicare doctors are paid -- for six years.
That bill, he said, enjoyed bi-partisan support.
Prior to that, physicians were paid basic amounts for their services.
Doctors today are now being compensated based on outcomes, he said.
“We are using disease management,” he said. “If someone comes into a hospital with heart issues, for example, and they are treated, and the treatment works and they don’t have to come back again, that saves everybody money. It’s better for the patient because it is outcome based.”
It was a landmark bill because no serious Medicare reform had been undertaken in more than 20 years, he said.
Over a 10-year period, that bill alone will save taxpayers more than $2.1 trillion, Roe commented.
Another bill Roe said he is proud of is the “Every Student Succeeds” education bill that replaced the former “No Child Left Behind Act”.
“The premise of No Child Left Behind was good, to make sure that every child had access to a good quality public education,” he said.
Roe commended educators in northeast Tennessee whom he said are “doing great jobs”.
“There are no charter schools in the First Congressional District and the reason we don’t have ‘em is that we don’t need ‘em,” he said. “Our public school system does a very good job.”
What past federal legislation had done, he said, was “tie our teachers into a pretzel”.
“They were checking so many boxes that they couldn’t even teach anymore,” he said. “The federal government doesn’t need to be in that business. I don’t know what’s best for classrooms in Rogersville or Detroit, but the local and state people do, which is why we pushed that back down to the local level as to what curriculums they want to have.”
(PUB. NOTE: Part three of this story will appear in the Review's "Midweek" edition next week.)