BY LISA WARREN
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, visited with constituents at Signature HealthCare of Greeneville on Thursday afternoon during a special reception hosted by the nursing facility.
Roe, of Johnson City, who is running for re-election for a third term to the U.S. House of Representatives, spoke briefly on issues including Medicare and health-care for seniors.
As a long-time physician, Roe said that he has witnessed many "amazing" advances during his career in the field of medicine.
These advances, he said, have provided persons with the opportunity to live "longer, better lives."
During each decade since 1980, Roe pointed out, the life expectancy in the United States has increased by three years.
Because people are living longer, the issue of Medicare remains at the forefront of the political debates in Washington, the congressman said.
"Why does Medicare needs to be reformed?" he asked.
"The fact is ... we're living longer, fewer people are paying in (to the Medicare system), and we're spending almost $300 billion more per year than we take in," he said.
"If I can help save Medicare, then I will have had a successful career in Congress," he added.
Roe said he is committed to leaving future U.S. generations without "piles of debt" to pay back.
"We need to pay our own bills," he stated.
"If that means we have to do with a little less so that future generations can have a little more, then I'm willing to do that," Roe said.
During the event, Roe was asked how he feels is the most feasible way to reform Medicare.
The congressman answered the question by saying, first, he feels that health-care decisions should be made between a patient and the patient's doctor.
Such medical decisions, he said, should not be made by an insurance company or the government.
Secondly, the congressman said, steps must be taken to control the costs of the health-care program.
"The problem right now with the health-care system is the cost. It is too expensive," Roe said. "And there is a group of people out there who do not have access because they cannot afford it."
Roe has been highly critical, however, of the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), an entity that was authorized by the Affordable Care Act (often called Obamacare) as a cost-containment provision to help rein in Medicare costs when total spending exceeds set targets.
Those controls could be implemented as early as 2015 -- unless overridden by large majorities in both houses of Congress -- but the Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would be at least several years before spending reached the level where the IPAB would be compelled to act.
Even though congressional budget officials said it might remain largely idle for the remainder of the next decade, it will save Medicare for future generations, supporters said.
Roe, however, has called the IPAB a "rationing board," which would end up "denying people care."