November 4, 2012

Shinagawa and Reed Debate Health Care Reform as Election Nears

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Health care reform dominated Thursday’s debate between incumbent Rep. Tom Reed and challenger Nate Shinagawa ’05 M.A. ’09. The two candidates for the 23rd Congressional District argued passionately over the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature legislative achievement of his first term and a lightning rod issue for conservatives.

The ACA — also known as Obamacare — has been hotly debated this election season, with Democrats saying the law provides care for those who previously weren’t able to buy health insurance, while conservatives charge that the program cuts $716 billion from Medicare.

While Democrats have said the law extends the life of Medicare, on Thursday Reed said that the entitlement program will be bankrupt by the time people who are currently 53 or younger are old enough to qualify.

“That’s what Obamacare does,” he said, according to The Ithaca Journal. “We need to do better, and that’s why we supported Paul Ryan’s budget. Let’s put solutions out there. Let’s put ideas out there.”

Reed made clear that he only supports reforming Medicare, not getting rid of it entirely or getting rid of other entitlement programs like Social Security. Still, he charged that the single-payer system supported by Shinagawa, a Tompkins County legislator, would lead health care costs to go through the roof.

“The bottom line is my opponent is supportive of not only Obamacare, but he is supportive of single-payer health care for America, which is government-controlled, government-defined health care for everyone. If we go down that path, health care costs are going to go through the roof,” Reed said.

Shinagawa, meanwhile, countered that the Ryan budget, which Reed supports, would make cuts to Medicare. To reduce costs, he said, is to preserve the current system while making the focus on the quality of care Medicare beneficiaries receive.

“I think what we need to do is actually invest in the Medicare system in the long run,” Shinagawa said. “I believe that we need to move the health care system that’s focused right now on how many patients you see, how many surgeries you do and how many tests you order into a system that’s an integrated model where all doctors and nurses are part of the same team and are focused on high-quality care, better care,”

The debate, held in Elmira, comes less than a week before Election Day. The contest between Reed and Shinagawa has narrowed in recent weeks, with two polls last week showing a five-point gap between the candidates, according to The Ithaca Journal.

Original Author: David Marten