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ICYMI: Update from Rep. Greg Walden

 

Growing up on a cherry orchard in The Dalles, I learned the value of hard work and integrity.  I carried those lessons with me as my wife and I founded our small businesses in Oregon.  We worked long, hard hours and know what it takes to sign both sides of a paycheck.  And I bring those lessons with me as I work hard to serve Oregonians and solve problems in local communities.

 

But far too often it seems like parts of the federal government—from the IRS, to the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, to the Veterans Administration—have forgotten these lessons. And there’s no better example of this than the worst fiscal failure in our state’s history: Cover Oregon.

 

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on this broken website, and taxpayers have little to show for it. The leaders of this failed organization finally agreed to throw in the towel and scrap the whole thing, leaving taxpayers struck with the bill.

 

On top of that, the state continues to reward the people responsible for Cover Oregon’s failure by paying employees retention bonuses to stay on the exchange’s payroll.  And they’re spending $650,000 of your tax dollars to do it.  It’s time to stop this outrageous waste and get the truth!

 

That’s why I worked hard to seek and secure an independent investigation into the failure of Cover Oregon from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Taxpayers deserve answers, and those in charge of this expensive boondoggle need to be held accountable.

 

But the health care law is more than failed websites, continued confusion, and broken promises. It puts the federal government between you and your health care provider, further extending the government’s tentacles into the private lives of Oregonians.

 

And one way they are paying for this is raiding Medicare. There’s a provision tucked away in Obamacare that makes drastic cuts to home health providers—a total of 14 percent over the next three years. The board that sets Medicare rates predicts that the cuts will cause more than 40 percent of home health providers nationwide to operate in the red.  And that number jumps to 70 percent of home care providers in Oregon. According to the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare, over 15,000 Oregonians already utilizing home health services will lose access to their providers and 3,000 home health care workers in Oregon will lose their jobs.

 

Taking away this important access to care eliminates patients’ ability to control their own health care decisions. Home care provides a sense of comfort, familiarity, and normalcy for the patient and their loved ones.  I know this first hand, because it’s a choice my parents made.  And it’s not just a win for the patient. Home-based care benefits Medicare as a whole.  Having people recover at home is less expensive than in a hospital or nursing home.

 

That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to stop these harsh cuts to home health care, the Securing Access via Excellence (SAVE) for Medicare Home Health Act of 2014.  Instead of these sweeping, across the board cuts, the SAVE Medicare Home Health Act puts in place smart reforms that reward home health agencies that provide high value care to their patients while cutting payments to agencies that don’t meet certain performance and quality standards.  Government intrusion shouldn’t cost Oregon seniors the care they rely on.

 

Meanwhile, Americans are correctly outraged by the scandal at the VA.  As a nation, we owe our veterans the best care possible.  From World War II to Korea, Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, they’ve all fought to defend our freedom, and we must ensure they receive the benefits and care they’ve earned.

 

That’s why the House has acted to clean up the mess at the VA. We’ve passed legislation to hold senior level managers at the agency accountable for the agency’s progress. And we unanimously approved emergency legislation that would allow veterans who have been waiting for an appointment more than 30 days the ability to get timely care outside the VA system. The Senate has passed similar legislation, and negotiators from both chambers recently completed hammering out a final version that is in the process of being sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

 

Besides working to improve health care for Oregonians, I’m continuing efforts to create jobs and change federal policy to better manage public lands. Last September, the House passed our bipartisan legislation to fix broken federal forest policy to create jobs in the woods, improve forest health, and provide revenue for essential local services like schools and law enforcement. As we enter what could be a very bad fire season, this legislation is more important than ever. The Senate should take it up and pass it as soon as possible before Oregonians are choking on smoke once more this summer. We can continue to build healthy communities and create a strong future for many generations to come.

 

Finally, I’m working hard on legislation to promote public access to our public lands. Whether it’s camping and hunting or fishing and picking berries with the grandchildren, recreation is part of our culture and heritage in Oregon.  That’s why I’ve introduced the Forest Access in Rural Communities Act- to ensure that federal government can’t restrict forest access without input from local communities.

 

I’ll continue to work hard to grow our economy, reduce wasteful spending, and stop growing government intrusion in your lives. So if you or a loved one needs help with Social Security, Medicare, veteran’s benefits, or any other federal agency, please call my office toll free from the 541 area code at 800-533-3303.  I will do everything I can to get results for you. It’s an honor to represent you in the U.S. Congress.

 

Best regards,

 

Greg Walden

Member of Congress
P.S. To learn more about my work on behalf of Oregon, please feel free to visit my website at www.walden.house.gov. There you can sign up for my free e-newsletter to receive email updates with the latest news from Oregon and the nation’s capital.

 

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