U.S. Congressman Dave Loebsack visited the Monroe County Hospital and Clinics, answer questions from administration and board members and then touring the facility, including taking a look at the $19 million new expansion.

MCHC CEO Veronica Fuhs led a question and answer discussion in the hospital meeting rooms prior to the tour. Loebsack, even during his time as a minority member of Congress, has been active in the support of critical access rural hospitals.

“I’m looking forward to continuing my work on the issues affecting critical access hospitals, serving in the majority on the Energy and Commerce Committees,” he said. “One thing Sen. Grassley and I agree on is that people on either coast know nothing about rural America.”

One of the grim facts of the incoming Congress is that Loebsack is one of the few rural Democrats in the newly empowered party.

Loebsack answered a variety of questions, including “sequestration” a funding mechanism that protects 101 percent of a rural hospital’s funding, but removes two percent on the backside. Loebsack said the two percent is likely never to return. He added that Iowa’s rural hospital system is guarded by two powerful lobbying groups, including the American Hospital Association and the Iowa Hospital Association. “These are great advocates for your hospitals,” he said.

Fuhs wanted to know how Congress felt about telemedicine. “It’s pretty popular in a world of limited resources,” said Loebsack. “I think you’d find a lot of people in Congress supporting it.”

Loebsack has long been an advocate of improving broadband access in rural areas and Fuhs and members of the board at the gathering agreed that with the use of telemedicine it would be difficult to operate the hospital without high speed Internet access.

Loebsack was pleased that a Farm Bill had passed and was fully funded, particularly good news for MCHC which received USDA funding to fund the $19 million clinic expansion. The hospital has also receiveda $586,000 advanced care planning grant that will help the hospital reach out to elderly in the community to plan for their long term care.

Loebsack admitted that he was somewhat concerned about the new Democrat leadership spending all of their time investigation the President (although he said he understood the importance of Congressional oversight). “I’d really like us to stay focused on the issues that affect you daily,” he said.

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