Oregon Local News – Challenger returns for town hall on health care

Last October, Jim Crary, a Democrat from the rural area east of Ashland, visited Madras to participate in a candidate forum to discuss his self-funded candidacy to unseat U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River.

Crary lost to Walden, who was first elected to represent the 2nd Congressional District in 1998, but plans to run again in the 2018 election.”

When I was running last time, people were not seeming to be engaged,” said Crary, pointing out that this time around — with the election 20 months out — people are already becoming involved.

During his last campaign, Crary focused on campaign finance reform, because of “the inordinate amount of influence it gives a small group of people.” While campaign finance reform remains important to Crary, this time around, he is focusing on health care — the main topic of his town hall on March 23, at the Jefferson County Libary Annex.

Crary was invited to Madras by Kim Schmith, who had health care issues after having breast cancer in 2009, which she said made her uninsurable, except through the Affordable Care Act.  Schmith said that she had written and called Walden’s office, but not received any response.”

The 2nd District is a poster child for the success of the Affordable Care Act,” Crary said, referring to the health care legislation signed into law in March 2010. According to a memo from the Democratic staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the 2nd District had the largest expansion of Medicaid coverage in the entire country, with 129,200 additional people enrolled.

Walden is the chairman of the committee.” Rep. Greg Walden still wants to revoke that, taking away coverage for thousands of his own constituents,” Crary said. “I am running to prevent that from happening.” Until last Friday, Walden had been working to repeal and replace the ACA legislation with the American Health Care Act.  On March 24, that effort came to an abrupt halt, when the legislation was pulled without a vote.”

For seven years, Republicans have been criticizing how horrible this thing (ACA) is,” he said, wondering why they weren’t working on a solution.  “Why isn’t it ready to go right off the shelf? “Eventually, Crary would like to see a single-payer health care system, with Medicare for all — “a solid health insurance for everybody.”

Private insurance companies have difficulty reducing costs because they have huge compensation packages for their executives and they have to make a profit, Crary said. Rural hospitals have benefited from the Affordable Care Act, because fewer people are without insurance. “What’s going to happen when people lose their insurance?” he asked, and answered that it would affect both the people losing coverage and rural hospitals.

In response to a question about legislation introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio in 2014 to undermine the financing of the ACA, Crary said that the federal government had anticipated losses in the first few years of the health insurance exchanges, and promised insurers that they would be reimbursed for those losses.  Rubio’s bill wiped out what Rubio called “that bailout fund.” “They were kind of trying to subvert (the ACA) all the way through,” said Crary. “Insurance companies got caught holding the bag.”

Asked about Medicare Part D, which subsidizes the cost of prescription drugs, Crary said that the federal government isn’t allowed to directly negotiate prices with drug companies. “It’s an absolute giveaway to pharmaceuticals,” he said. “The Veterans Administration does negotiate prices and does get better prices,” Crary noted. “The federal government should be able to negotiate and we should drive a hard bargain.

“On other topics, Crary said he would like to see an audit of the Department of Defense, which had a budget of $573 billion in 2016 — more than half of the annual Congressional budget. The president has requested an increase of $54 billion in military spending, which would necessitate across-the-board cuts for other government programs.

Crary would rather see more money spent on infrastructure. “It’s an investment,” he said. “Who benefits? Everybody.  If you defer maintenance, it’s going to cost you a lot more in the end than if you’d kept up on it.

“When asked about public lands, Crary said that he is not in favor of the federal government giving land to states or counties which don’t have the money to manage the land.

On the subject of immigration, Crary favors a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, similar to Reagan’s plan in 1986. “If an illegal immigrant has committed a felony or multiple misdemeanors since coming to the U.S., that person should be deported,” he said. “However, if an illegal immigrant has worked hard and not broken the law, then I would allow that person to come out of the shadows, pay a fine and be given a seven-year path to citizenship. ”

Veteran, retired attorney, prosecutor Born in Fargo, North Dakota, Crary, 64, attended Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and enlisted in the U.S. Army at the end of the Vietnam war.
Source: Oregon Local News – Challenger returns for town hall on health care