By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., swung through Hays on Saturday as part of his "Kansas Listening Tour" jaunt through the state's 105 counties.
The senator spoke to approximately 40 people during the town hall meeting. Moran spoke about rural health care, housing, Veterans Affairs and other topics.
One participant asked for his opinion on the state of health care in rural areas.
"My primary interest in getting into politics was trying to keep rural America alive," Moran said. "One of those aspects is if you lose your health care delivery system. If you don't have a hospital and a doctor some place close, you lose your community."
If Rooks County Health Center was not available, the senator would speak with his father about moving somewhere with access to health care, Moran said.
"My parents paid into Social Security and Medicare taxes their whole lives, and they ought not have their future determined by where Medicare will make a reimbursement to a health care provider," he said.
Sequestration reduced Medicare reimbursements by 2 percent. President Obama proposed a 1-percent cut in critical access hospitals' compensation and wants to lengthen the distance facilities must have between them in order to qualify for assistance.
"To go back and retroactively tell hospitals who qualify for critical access reimbursement that they no longer qualify means you put them out of business," he said.
If there are several hospitals within the proposed mileage restrictions, they all could be closed.
Moran also said he believes the VA is "dysfunctional." The closure of VA hospitals in Kansas because of doctor shortages is one example of the department's shortcomings, he said.
The senator wants veterans to have access for routine care close to home.
"I actually think the VA is becoming a huge bureaucracy with little ability to do much of anything well," he said.
Housing is another issue he focuses on because local leaders have voiced their concerns.
"Our ability to expand our businesses and to hire people and put people to work and attract good business to our community is hampered by the fact that there's no place to live," he said.
Sue Boldra, R-Hays, 111th district representative for the state Legislature, attended the event.
"I think he represents us well," Boldra said. "I think we're all upset that things aren't being completed like we want, that things aren't happening like we want, but he's in a tough position. We don't have a majority."
Boldra said she shared Moran's concern about the future of rural health care if proposed changes are adopted.
"He's very good," said David Wood, an attendee from Munjor. "I think I got to know Jerry a little bit better since I came here, and I think he's walking the right trail."