Weekly Columns

Hearing from East Tennesseans

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Washington, April 20, 2017 | Lani Short (202-225-6356) | comments

I always enjoy being home in East Tennessee and hearing from constituents in the First District; over the last two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to do just that, meeting with many different constituent groups on a number of interesting topics. I’ve visited manufacturers in our district to hear how we can create policies that incentivize more job creation in the United States. I’ve visited schools to meet with our future leaders. I’ve heard from hotel operators how we can help promote tourism and effective workforce development that is lifeblood of our region’s economy.

Additionally, I held a town hall meeting on Tuesday evening in Elizabethton and heard first-hand from East Tennesseans their views on a wide array of topics. This was my fourth town hall this year, which includes a previous live town hall meeting in Greeneville, TN; a telephone town hall; and a Facebook Live town hall. I greatly enjoy these discussions.

On Tuesday evening, much of the conversation revolved around the outlook for America’s health care system. As you may know, in 2018, one-third of the counties in the First District will have no options to purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Further, Knox County, the third largest market in the state, will have no Obamacare coverage options in 2018. For the counties that do have coverage options, costs increased an average of 46 percent last year. This isn’t sustainable – Obamacare must be repealed and replaced with patient-centered, free-market reforms that lower the cost of health care, improve quality, and provide real choice and competition.

I heard from a number of constituents about their concerns that a replacement for Obamacare would not cover individuals with pre-existing conditions. I explained that all of our current health care discussions do ensure people with pre-existing conditions continue to have affordable options for insurance coverage. The rising cost of prescription medication was another topic of discussion, and I agree this should be addressed. I believe we can lower the cost of medications to patients by bringing in competition and making generic options more readily available. Last Congress, I was proud to support the 21st Century Cures Act, a law that will increase the speed at which generic medications are moved from the lab to patients by streamlining the Food and Drug Administration’s approval and review process. This is just one example of what we can do to drive down the cost of prescription drugs and reform health care.

I also laid out for attendees the stark budgetary challenges our country is facing in the coming years. As our mandatory programs –such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP Benefits, and welfare – have expanded, we now find ourselves with two-thirds of our country’s spending being on auto-pilot. Both Medicare and Social Security are facing serious funding challenges in the not-too-distant future that threaten the viability of these programs. Many attendees were very concerned about ensuring these programs continue to be there for future generations, and I explained how if our country acts now, we can save these programs for future generations.

Tuesday’s town hall was a fantastic display of what makes America great. We each have our own opinion, and I was glad to hear everyone in attendance express their beliefs with respect. I am very thankful and blessed to be an American citizen, and look forward to continuing to serve the people of the First District in any way I can.

As always, feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family. 
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