Patients First bus tour slated to stop in Washington|Organizers oppose government control of health care in U.S.

Published 10:35 am Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Contributing Editor

Congressman G.K. Butterfield expects a fight on Capitol Hill when it comes to legislation regarding health-care reform at the national level.
“It’s going to be very contentious, and rightfully so,” said Butterfield, adding that he welcomes debate of the issue. “I want healthy debate.”
Butterfield, who represents North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, was in Washington — the Original Washington, that is — on Monday. He made a stop at the Agape Community Health Clinic, where is discussed health-care reform. The House of Representatives is in recess this month, allowing Butterfield more time than usual to visit his district and meet with his constituents.
Butterfield said most Republicans on Capitol Hill are more interested in opposing Democrats’ ideas regarding health-care reform than helping develop a health-care reform plan that could win bipartisan support and meet the health-care needs of most, if not all, Americans.
“I am disappointed the Republicans want to challenge our plan instead of coming up with an alternative,” Butterfield said.
“There are 45 million American without health insurance. That’s unacceptable,” Butterfield noted.
It’s a misconception to believe President Barack Obama has a ready-made plan to reform health care, Butterfield said.
Instead, Obama has asked the House and Senate to develop such plans, the congressman said. The House has three committees working on the issue, each developing its own plan. Butterfield is a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which is one of the three House committees developing a plan.
“The Senate is going to do the same thing,” Butterfield said.
When the House and Senate each cobble a plan, the two bodies will begin to reconcile the two proposals, he said. The plan that comes out of the reconciliation process must include what the president wants, Butterfield said.
“He wants every American to have insurance,” Butterfield said.
The president also wants the plan to be budget-neutral, Butterfield added.
Critics of Obama’s vision for health-care reform contend it will cost too much and give the federal government too much control over the delivery of health-care services to the public.
Butterfield said he would like for Republicans to weigh in on the issue “in a cooperative spirit,” adding that he believes a plan to reform health care can be developed with GOP assistance and win bipartisan approval after Congress reconvenes after its current recess.
Butterfield, during his tour of the clinic, discussed the role of such clinics in rural areas.
“Rural America cannot exist without robust health clinics,” Butterfield said.
Community health centers are providing cost-efficient and much-needed services that benefit area such as rural eastern North Carolina, the congressman said.
“That’s why we need continued investment in community health centers,” Butterfield said.
The Metropolitan Community Health Services, which operates the Agape Community Health Clinic, received $462,054 for capital improvements and to expand services. The funding is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, an economic stimulus package that included $2 billion for community health centers across the nation.
The stimulus package also includes $300 million for the National Health Service Corps, a federal program that helps doctors, dentists, nurses and other health-care providers repay their student loans in exchange for a commitment to practice in underserved areas.
Butterfield also visited National Spinning Co. while in Washington. The tour of the textile company is part of the National Council of Textile Organization’s Bring the Hill to the Mill campaign, which has the objective of bringing every member of Congress with textile facilities in their districts into a textile mill for briefings about textile-trade issues. Last month, the initiative, started in 2006, was approved for additional funding by the NCTO Board of Directors.
Butterfield said there’s no doubt that the North American Free Trade Agreement, approved during President Bill Clinton’s administration, has resulted in the loss of American jobs, including jobs in the textile industry. That’s not acceptable, he said.
“We have a responsibility to revisit NAFTA,” Butterfield said.