Kuster, Bass host Q&A at DHMC
By Lindsay Ellis, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Thursday, November 1, 2012
Rep. Charlie Bass ’74, R-N.H. and Democratic opposition candidate Ann Kuster ’78 answered questions regarding health care policy and presented their views to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center employees on-site at the hospital on Wednesday morning.
Bass trails Kuster by three percentage points, according to an October poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire. In the race for New Hampshire’s second district congressional seat in 2010, Bass defeated Kuster by roughly 1.5 percent of the vote to secure his current seat.
While Kuster said she would continue to support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act if elected, Bass expressed his disapproval of the act during the question-and-answer period.
Kuster compared introducing the act to building the first mile of an interstate highway, noting that while it is imperfect, the Affordable Care Act moves the country in the right direction.
“There were lots of naysayers who said, ‘This is not going to work in our community — it’s not going to get over that mountain or around that lake,’” she said. “Think of what our lives are like now and what commerce and personal travel we have. Try to imagine us without the interstate highway system.”
Bass, who served in Congress from 1995 to 2007 and since 2011, has voted to repeal both individual parts of the Affordable Care Act and the act itself.
“There are some provisions of the law that make sense, but my view is that at a number of different levels, it was the wrong debate at the wrong time in this country,” Bass said.
Upon his election in 2008, President Barack Obama should have postponed policy regarding health care and climate change to focus on the dire economy, Bass said. The Affordable Care Act improves access but does not adequately address the costs behind providing care, and economic uncertainty has stemmed from this shift in policy, he said.
“I can’t tell you how many small business owners have said they are not hiring anyone until they figure out the payroll burden,” he said. “They have no idea what this is going to do, and it’s dragging the economy.”
Kuster argued against the vouchers introduced in the budget proposed by vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which Bass supports. The plan shifts responsibility for the difference between rising health care costs and the value of the vouchers to beneficiaries who cannot afford the expense, she said. When patients who lack coverage arrive at hospitals, doctors still provide treatment, shifting the financial burden from beneficiaries to institutions, she said.
Improved education, innovation and infrastructure — like roads, bridges, highways and telecommunications — will push forward the country’s economy, Kuster said.
“Parts of the district are still on dial-up,” she said.
Both Kuster and Bass spoke negatively of Congress’ current polarization.
Bass attributed the upcoming fiscal cliff to this divide and cited bipartisan working groups on which he has served as examples of his willingness to bridge the party gap.
“I began to realize that both Republicans and Democrats had come to the point where they defined a successful day as having had a good fight rather than finding any kind of common ground solution for a problem,” he said.
The event, which was open to DHMC employees and the media, was part of DHMC’s Health Policy Grand Rounds program, an ongoing lecture series featuring nominees for the New Hampshire Office of the Governor.
Kuster recognized and focused on the audience’s expertise on health-related issues.
“It’s not just preaching to the choir, it’s preaching to the experts,” Kuster said.
Gail Dahlstrom, DHMC vice president of facilities management, said that she appreciated Kuster’s transparency.
“She said, ‘You know more about this than I do,’ but she came across as quite knowledgeable,” Dahlstrom said.
About 30 people attended the event, which attracted fewer audience members than previous talks in the series, according to Susan Cronenwett, a researcher in the Geisel School of Medicine’s psychiatry department.
Cronenwett said she agrees with Kuster’s approach to health care and economic policy.
“I think the health care system is broken — I see it every day,” she said. “I think that what she proposes or supports will help. It’s probably not enough, but I would much rather see her well-reasoned approach than something more conservative.”