Sen. Moran visits Valley Falls
by Clarke Davis
U.S. Senator Jerry Moran tells people in Washington, D.C., that where he comes from ecomonic development is often whether or not there is a grocery store in town.
“Almost nobody in Washington can perceive how that could ever be an issue,” Moran said.
The senator greeted about 35 people who came to see him in Valley Falls Friday morning.
He said that over the years as a member of the House and now as a senator he continues to work on what he calls Kansas issues—those issues that deal with farmers and ranchers and the state’s agriculture as well as how to keep Main Street alive and well.
Topping his list were health care, making sure people have access to hospitals and doctors; technology, making sure our communities don’t get left behind; and education, making sure the federal government doesn’t mess up by increasing the costs and decreasing the quality.
“The constant effort in Washington to take care of education in Kansas is in my view detrimental,” he said. “While I always list education as something we pay a lot of attention to, we pay attention to it in the sense of trying to keep the federal government out of our schools.”
One of the first concerns fielded from the audience was the fear or losing post offices in small, rural towns. The U.S. Postal Service previously threatened to close 134 post offices in Kansas and, after holding some public sessions, settled on reducing their operating hours.
“It’s the hope that this is not the first step toward closing them,” Moran said.
Again, he noted, it is one of those issues where big city people have to be educated on why post offices in rural areas are more vital because there is an aging population that relies more heavily on the post office and many of the competing services available in cities are not present in little towns.
Moran said the post office was established in the U.S. Constitution and that it addresses “universal service,” which means mail service should be available to everyone.
Questions about the viability and well-being of small hospitals and long-term care facilities were voiced along with the need to maintain emergency services in rural areas.
Moran noted that there are 127 hospitals in Kansas, all of which he has visited and vouched for their importance.
“The reason this is imporant, if you care about the future of your community—if you lose the access to health care whether it is a pharmacy, nursing home, hospital, a doctor, physical therapy—you begin to lose people,” the Plainville native said.
Moran made it clear that there is an extreme threat by the Obama administration of changing the way critical access hospitals are reimbursed and that if those changes go through it could be the death knell for the hospital in Winchester along with more than 60 others in the state.
He said that more than 80 of these rural hospitals in Kansas are reimbursed for their services through Medicare on a cost-based formula designed to keep them in business, but the administration would change that as well as changing the distance they are from another hospital in order to get the “critical access” designation.
“I have had this discussion with Secretary Sebelius and she ought to know Kansas. I’ve said, ‘So you’re going to take away the designation of critical access hospitals that are less than a certain number of miles apart. What that does is take it away from all of them. There are none left standing. How does this even make sense?’ Which there is not a good answer. This hasn’t been thought through,” he said.
A coalition of rural members in the senate has been formed to weigh in opposition to these moves in order to save these hospitals, he said.
Considerable discussion fell on the huge amount of bureaucracy that exists throughout the government and how regulations and paperwork drive up the costs of doing business.
Moran said a bank president in Coldwater who complained about the inability to keep up with the regulatory paperwork was told that he should hire two more people.
“This is a bank with eight employees and he’s being told to add two more,” Moran said.
The senator noted that few towns in Kansas are growing and when costs go up there are no more people or customers to cover the deficit. The net result is fewer family owned banks and more consolidation.
“Blaming the regulatory agencies is a cop-out,” Moran said. “Congress gave them the authority. Instead of passing new laws, we should spend a lot more time getting rid of old laws that no longer have value and overseeing the agencies that implement the laws that we have passed.”
There were numerous comments about the Affordable Health Care Act, which Moran described as “the biggest drain on the ability to get this economy going again and putting people to work.”
He cited discussions he has had with business owners throughout the state who tell him that the federal health insurance law is the biggest factor in keeping them from investing and expanding business in both big cities and small towns.
The senator seemed at a loss to understand why Congress can’t tinker with the law and change it so that it will help the people who need help and yet not do damage to those who have been taking care of themselves.
The senator fielded questions and heard comments about President Obama overstepping his authority and bypassing Congress on a number of issues; changing the Senate rules to a one-vote majority instead of 60, which gives more voice to the minority; funding of Social Security and Medicare; and the need to increase the minium wage.
Moran spent one hour and 15 minutes at the local bank’s community room before heading for a similar meeting in Holton. He was scheduled to return to Washington Sunday.
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