Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.

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Readers share their thoughts on elder care, surprise medical billing and more.

Thankful for congresswoman's view on elder care

I just read the My View article by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici regarding care for aging parents. The only changes I would make to that article if it was my own are that my mother is 92 years old, and I don't attend any congressional hearings.

Refer to Rep. Suzanne Bonamici's commentary, published Dec. 5, 2019.

I deeply appreciate Rep. Bonamici's true compassion and commitment to push the Dignity in Aging Act. Will our other members of Congress join her?

Henry Kantor, Northwest Portland

Healthcare bill has promise, but also has serious flaw

The legislation in Congress for surprise medical billing has the potential to improve our health care system, but not if it includes benchmark rates. Although the proposed benchmark rate law might lower current out-of-pocket costs for patients, it will have unintended consequences for local patients and providers.

I approach the surprise medical billing problem as a licensed clinical social worker. My clinic, the Firefly Institute, specializes in trauma-informed care and addressing adverse childhood experiences. Benchmarking would require my clinic to use insurers' rates when a patient receives out-of-network care. This affects our ability to contract with insurers because benchmarking is a take-it-or-leave-it scenario. Even if we turn down the insurers' rates, we cannot earn more than insurers' rates as out-of-network providers.

This unfair negotiating table will force more providers to deliver services out-of-network. Patients will lose the ability to see whichever doctors and specialists they like and trust. For rural patients, the search for an in-network provider will become even harder.

Many patients currently drive an hour or more from rural areas to receive specialized services at my clinic. They would not be able to obtain these services closer to home. I worry about the prospect of fewer in-network providers for these patients who already travel so far.

Health insurance is important. It helps patients manage care. Congress should ensure fair negotiations between insurers and health care providers so that patients have fewer surprise bills and sufficient networks for care.

Michelle Pliske

President, National Association of Social Workers Oregon Chapter

Rural Oregon electric cooperative at risk of losing funds

For the past 75 years, Oregon's electric cooperatives like West Oregon Electric Cooperative have provided our members affordable, reliable electricity. Sometimes that's not easy.Western Oregon Electric Co-op experienced four Federal Emergency Management Agency (also known as FEMA) events in the last six years, leaving consumers without power [and] causing millions of dollars in damages.

FEMA funds bring the lights back on after these major events. However, due to an unintended consequence of federal tax law changes in 2017, electric co-ops that receive FEMA grants are now at risk of losing of their tax-exempt status, forcing them to raise rates on members to pay taxes.Electric cooperatives remain tax-exempt as long as they receive 85% of their income from their member-owners. With tax law changes, government grants now count as non-member income, threatening this 85% threshold.

Here's what's already

happening: kval.com/news/ local/fine-print-in-2017-gop-tax-law-could-result-in-increase-in-electric-co-op-rates-in-oregon. Thankfully, common-sense legislation in Congress — the Rural Act — ensures that co-ops do not jeopardize their tax-exempt status when they accept government grants. Passage of this bipartisan legislation means that Oregon's electric co-ops do not have to choose between their tax status or rebuilding infrastructure. But time is running out.

The bill's ultimate fate may rest with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, who has a unique opportunity to help keep rural Oregon in the light in more ways than one. By passing the Rural Act, Senator Wyden can continue as a shining example of bipartisan cooperation that Oregonians expect from their elected leaders.

Please write to Senator Wyden asking him to support the Rural Act: wyden.senate.gov.

Erika Paleck

WOEC director for District 5

Vernonia


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