Patients and residents at Bryan County Health & Rehabilitation Center in Richmond Hill got an impromptu visit Wednesday from U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., who talked to the mostly senior audience about the House’s recent passage of a measure aimed at fixing Medicare.
Called House Resolution 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, the bill would mean doctors won’t face a cut in funding for seeing patients on Medicare. And that means seniors like those at Bryan County Health & Rehabilitation Center won’t lose their doctors, Carter said.
The bill, which passed the House 392-37 but still has to go before the Senate, does away with a mechanism known as the sustainable-growth rate, which determined doctors’ payments. Instead, doctors will see small increases for a while, but also be paid based on the quality of their care, Carter said.
Carter seems certain the bill will pass the Senate and be signed by the president. Without action, doctors face a 22 percent cut in payment amounts they’ll get from Medicare beginning April 1.
“If we had not fixed that, (doctor payments were) going to decrease significantly to where a lot of doctors were going to drop out of Medicare,” he told those at the center. “That means the doctors you see and those that come
here, they may not have been eligible for Medicare and, therefore, you may have had trouble getting to see someone who accepts Medicare.”
Residents at the center listened politely to Carter’s remarks and applauded him afterward. Peggy Daniel, who has been at the center for two years, said she was glad to hear the congressman speak.
“I liked what he said. And I’m glad I’ll still be able to participate in Medicare,” Daniel said.
Shann Cook Loyd, whose family owns the center and others, was in Richmond Hill with her mother, Sheila, who started the center with her husband 50 years ago. Loyd said the family was glad to see Carter speak to residents.
“We appreciate anything the congressman can do for our patients,” Loyd said. “We know it’s a hard time for health care in general, and some of the people who are really suffering are the elderly. We have some younger patients, too, who also need a lot of help. When you get sick, people don’t realize how much the cost of health care is.”
Not just business
Carter, a pharmacist who worked in a nursing home for years, didn’t restrict his comments to Medicare. He told a few jokes and got a few laughs as well — especially when he talked about his experiences after first being elected to office as Pooler mayor in 1995.
“I’m asked if I ever feel important, and I tell them the truth, there was a time when I felt important,” Carter said. “When I became mayor of Pooler, I thought I was something.”
That didn’t last long, he said. First, he found out he would still have to sweep his store and pick up the trash.
Then, Carter said, he went to a nursing home where he worked to check patients’ charts and, just to see if word of his becoming mayor had spread, asked a resident there if she knew who he was.
“She said no,” Carter told the seniors Wednesday. “I asked her if she was sure she didn’t know who I was, and she told me no. Now, by this time I was getting pretty frustrated, and I told her, ‘I can’t believe you don’t know who I am.’”
The woman’s response?
“She was so sweet, she got up and came over to me and put her hand on my shoulder. She said, ‘Honey, if you go over to that nursing station over there, they’ll tell you who you are.’”
Carter, who was born and raised in Port Wentworth and is a first-term congressman, said he’s settling in to his job, though it was overwhelming at first.
“I’m a product of the 1st District. I was born and bred here. I got up to Washington, D.C., and looked around, and I saw all these people I’d seen on Fox News and CNN and on the cover of Time magazine and on the front page of major newspapers, and I thought, ‘Wow, Buddy, how did you get up here?’” Carter said.
“A couple of days later, after I got to know some of them, I started thinking, ‘Wow, how did they get up here?’”
That aside, Carter said he remains optimistic about the country.
“There are a lot of good people up there ... there a are a lot of smart people up there, very serious people, who want to move this country forward and they want to do the right thing,” he said. “And I’m very encouraged by that.”
Carter told the center residents that bipartisan support for HR 2 showed how important it was.
“We want to make sure we take care of you because after all, for many years, you took care of us, and we appreciate it,” he said.