Home health care allows patients more control over their health care, and provides a sense of comfort, familiarity, and normalcy for the patient and their families. I know this first hand, because it’s what my parents chose.

And it’s not just a win for the patient. Home-based care benefits Medicare as a whole.  Having people recover at home is less expensive than in a hospital or nursing home.

But now the Obama Administration has put countless Americans in danger of losing their home health care. They’ve used their authority under the Affordable Care Act to implement a 14% cut over four years. That’s the maximum the law allowed, and they took advantage of it.

The board that sets Medicare rates predicts that the cuts will cause more than 40 percent of home health providers nationwide to operate in the red.  And that number jumps to 70 percent of home care providers in Oregon.

According to the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare, more than 15,000 Oregonians already benefitting from home health services could lose access to their providers and nearly 3,000 home health care workers in Oregon could lose their jobs.

Last September, 142 members of Congress from both parties—including myself and Rep. Earl Blumenauer—wrote to the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services urging her to reverse these cuts. And in October, I raised the issue directly to then-HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. But the Administration has continued to move forward with these cuts.

That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to stop these harsh cuts to home health care: the Securing Access via Excellence (SAVE) for Medicare Home Health Act of 2014.

The SAVE Medicare Home Health Act repeals the Obamacare cuts in 2015-2017. Instead, it will put into place smart reforms that reward home health agencies that provide high value care to their patients while reducing payments to agencies that don’t meet certain performance and quality standards.

This plan is designed to be budget neutral, and positions Medicare to save money in the long run. We’ll get more for our money and better care for our patients without these across the board cuts.

I’m pleased to have the support of home health care providers in Oregon. I visited Riverside Home Health in Grants Pass in January to hear more about the impact of these cuts, and am planning to visit with home health care providers from St. Charles in Bend on Monday.

Walden meets with Riverside Home Health Care in Grants Pass earlier this year to discuss the Administration’s cuts to home health care for Oregon seniors. Administrator Angela Potter is at right.

Walden meets with Riverside Home Health Care in Grants Pass earlier this year to discuss the Administration’s cuts to home health care for Oregon seniors. Administrator Angela Potter is at right.

And I’m glad that ten of my colleagues in the House, including Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers from across the river in Washington, have introduced this bill with me. This common-sense bill will stop the Administration’s cuts to home health care, and allow Oregon seniors to continue to receive the care they need and depend on.

House passes bipartisan jobs training bill

Employers, workers, and job training advocates in Oregon—most recently at Rogue Valley Microdevices in Medford—have told me that the current workforce development system is a confusing maze of programs.  It’s outdated, inefficient, and not accountable to the taxpayers.

That’s why I was proud to support a bill overwhelmingly passed by the House last week —the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act—to help put Oregonians back to work by reforming our nation’s outdated workforce development system.

This bipartisan legislation will reform and improve workforce training programs so Oregonians can obtain the skills they need to go back to work. It eliminates 15 duplicative programs, reducing administrative costs and unnecessary bureaucracy. Local boards are empowered to tailor services to their region’s employment and workforce needs. And the bill promotes skills training for 21st century jobs, fostering a modern workforce that Oregon businesses rely on to compete. It’s a win for taxpayers, job seekers, and employers.

“This is an important moment. As business leaders, we’ve advocated a long time for an even stronger partnership between the public and private sectors so we can grow the skills of workers, grow our businesses and grow good jobs. This legislation will help us to line up our collective efforts, so we can make an even bigger difference economically for our region,” said Jessica Gomez, CEO and Founder of Rogue Valley Microdevices in Medford and Chair of the Rogue Workforce Partnership.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill in late June. It now heads to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law in the coming days.

Holding town halls with Oregonians—in person and virtually

I’m continuing to hold town hall meetings in person throughout the Second District. Most recently, 85 people turned out in Wasco County for a town hall meeting that covered everything from reforming the Endangered Species Act, to immigration, to the Cover Oregon debacle.

2-wasco

Walden holds a town hall meeting with constituents in Wasco County

On Monday, July 21, I will hold a town hall meeting in Crook County at the OSU/COCC campus building (510 SW Lynn Boulevard) in Prineville. The meeting will run from 2:30 pm-3:30 pm. I will give an update on my efforts to grow Central Oregon’s economy, including legislation I have written that has passed the House twice unanimously to bring water and power to Prineville for job creation. If you live in Crook County, I hope you’ll be able to join us.

Besides these in-person meetings, I’ve held multiple, telephone town hall meetings this month. I’ve gotten very positive feedback from people who enjoy listening to what others around our enormous district have to say, and the questions they ask. Some people prefer this way to communicate because it’s too difficult for them to attend the town halls I do in person. For others, the travel distance is too far, or they just aren’t comfortable in that kind of a setting.

I’ll be having more of these in coming weeks, so if you are interested in participating in one in the future, please send me an e-mail via my website here.

Funding for transportation projects approved by the House

Whether they are driving to work or school, taking a vacation, or moving agricultural products, Oregonians deserve to know that the bridges, roads, and highways they are driving on are modernized and safe. But funding for new highway projects and road maintenance is quickly running dry.

That’s why this week the House passed a bipartisan bill to allow highway funding to continue into next year while Congress works on a long-term plan to reform transportation policy. We cannot grow our economy and promote commerce without maintaining and improving our nation’s infrastructure. The Senate is working on a similar plan. I hope that the House and Senate will quickly reconcile their versions and send it to the President to be signed into law.

Permanently banning taxes on internet access

The Internet is possibly the most important technological advancement since the printing press. Governments’ hands off approach has enabled the internet to rapidly grow into a powerful engine for our economy.

At the beginning of the internet revolution, Congress passed a law preventing state and local governments from imposing taxes on internet access. That ban is scheduled to expire in November, though, and I don’t support opening the door to more internet taxation that would harm Oregon families and small businesses.

This week, the House unanimously passed the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act to permanently extend the moratorium on state and local taxation on internet access. This unanimous vote sends a strong signal that keeping the internet free of burdensome taxation will spur innovation in the Pacific Northwest and create more jobs for Oregonians.

Committee passes seven bipartisan bills to improve public health, grow the economy

On Tuesday, the committee I serve on, the Energy and Commerce Committee, unanimously approved seven bipartisan bills to improve public health and grow our economy. These bills include a plan to crack down on designer anabolic steroids, one to improve the understanding of sudden unexpected infant death, and one to improve the treatment of muscular dystrophy. For more information, please click here.

Last week, the Committee released its mid-year report which highlights some of our bipartisan successes so far this year. Click here to read the report.

That’s all for this week. I’m looking forward to being in southern Oregon on Friday to tour the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project and participate in a mobilization ceremony for Oregon National Guard troops deploying to Afghanistan.

Then I’ll head to Sprague River in Klamath County for a briefing on the Moccasin Hill Fire and other fires in the region. Then it’s on to Central Oregon for a meeting with a home health care provider and a town hall meeting in Prineville. Have a great week.

Best regards,

Greg Walden
U.S. Representative
Oregon’s Second District


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