Altmire: Expect congressional action on health care

Beaver County Times
By J.D. Prose, Times Staff
Published: Monday, June 29, 2009 10:10 PM EDT
MARSHALL TWP. — After meeting with his health-care advisory board Monday, U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire said Americans should expect congressional action before 2009 ends.

“We are going to pass a health-care reform bill in Congress this year,” said Altmire, D-4, McCandless Township. “We need to find a way to bring down the cost of health care.”

Trying to determine how to do that was the main topic Altmire and about 35 health-care professionals and business people privately discussed prior to a press conference at Medrad Inc., a medical device company in Marshall Township.

Instead of taxes, Altmire said he would rather savings are found in the country’s current health-care model, which he repeatedly said accounts for $2.5 trillion in spending every year.

Emanuel Panos, a pharmacist and owner of Hoffman’s Drug Store on Franklin Avenue in Aliquippa, was part of the discussion and said he simply wants the ability to compete for patients, which isn’t the case now with insurance companies favoring mail-order pharmacies.

If he had access to more patients, Panos said he would likely have to expand his business, which would translate into more local job opportunities.

In 2006, New Castle business owner Georgia Berner was challenging Altmire in the Democratic primary. On Monday, though, Berner was part of Altmire’s advisory board.

“This is breaking my company,” Berner said of the cost to provide coverage for her 72 workers at Berner International Corp., an air door maker, and Berner Energy Recovery Inc.

Berner said she’s lived in Japan and frequently visits family in Sweden, and she’s seen alternatives to America’s current health-care model. “I understand how these different systems work and they do work,” she said.

Altmire said lawmakers need to maintain what works yet slash the “astronomical costs” that plague the nation’s health system.

Critics have warned that health-care reform could lead to “socialized medicine” in which services are significantly diminished and patient choice is curtailed. Altmire said such tactics are to be expected from reform opponents.

“If we went to socialized medicine, they’d be right. That’s what would happen,” he said, “But we’re not.”

J.D. Prose can be reached online at

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