Daily Courier: US Rep. Greg Walden comes to Grants Pass: Congressman talks home health care

October 16, 2015
In The News

US Rep. Greg Walden comes to Grants Pass: Congressman talks home health care

They say laughter is the best medicine. If that's true, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden produced plenty of remedies Thursday during a presentation at the Asante Center for Outpatient Health on the campus of Three Rivers Medical Center.

Walden, R-Hood River, capped off a trip to his vast 2nd Congressional District by discussing home health care with nurses and nurse practitioners in Grants Pass. He detailed some of the hurdles he faced in the House and asked for feedback that he could take back to Washington, D.C.

Walden said part of the reason it's tough to get primary care physicians to dedicate time to home care is the slim financial margins.

He also talked about meeting with representatives from Google and even Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, to talk about technological advances in medicine.

That's when he garnered some of the first laughs of the day.

"Now, trust me — I don't hold any Apple stock — but what they can do with the Watch is just fantastic," he said, detailing a feature wherein the device gives off a slight pulse to remind a user to get up if he or she is sedentary for too long.

"We're on the cusp of these enormous advances in health care. One more thing and I'll stop unloading on you — you'd think I'm in the Senate — and then we'll get to more questions," Walden said, a wave of laughter following his jab at the upper chamber of Congress.

He added that technology can help fill the void left by a lack of in-home care providers. Walden relayed a story about his late father who lived independently for some time before moving into an assisted-living facility.
One day, the U.S. representative got a phone call from a home-care provider.

"Did you know that your dad hasn't moved in probably 24 hours?" the doctor told him.

"Had that gone on for an extended period of time," Walden said, "when would it turn into a trip to the ER?"

Google employees presented the idea of a contact lens that could monitor certain health functions, such as the insulin level in diabetic patients, according to Walden. Given enough development, the tech guys told him, maybe it could connect to an apparatus that administers the medicine when needed.

Although most of the conversation centered on rural health care, Walden did address a certain John Boehner-sized elephant in the room. But only after Roger Fogg, a nurse practitioner attending the event, prompted him.

"Maybe getting some of this stuff through would be easier if you were just speaker" of the House, Fogg said.

"I don't know about that," Walden said. "I've got a pretty tough full-time job as it is."

But why should providing more money for home care be so controversial? Why did Medicare payments to home health care beneficiaries drop by 14 percent in one year? And why can't rural customers simply FaceTime their doctors instead of waiting for a home visit?

"There's all kinds of roadblocks to people getting care in a timely manner. Obviously, in Congress we can use a few more clinical psychologists, but that's another matter for another time," Walden said to another round of chuckles as he wrapped up his visit.