PalazzoAs far as Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) sees it, the time to do something about the tough issues facing the country and Congress is now, notably by acting forcefully on the ballooning deficit and the underlying issues causing the problem.

In an interview with Provider, the first-term congressman representing Mississippi’s Fourth District said he’d like this and the next Congress to work on solving problems and not put them off for the future.
For instance, the current system does not allow a good way to pay for the Medicare and Medicaid programs, Palazzo says, and that must be addressed for the good of the nation and all seniors.

“I’d like to see us get to a point where Congress can take up some of these tough issues—like Medicare and Medicaid. These are some of the biggest drivers of our debt. We have an aging population, more and more who are going to need care in the future, and fewer and fewer people paying into the system,” he says.

Continuing a “kick-the-can-down-the-road” approach just won’t do. “There’s no question we need to control costs. But the best way is by focusing more on the patient and having health care providers compete for their business,” Palazzo says.

Like many conservatives in the House, he also favors a larger state role in the health care system, especially as the federal government combats tough budget choices.

“So many rely on Medicaid to care for the Greatest Generation. We can find a responsible way to do that without bankrupting the program. The only way to ensure that all Americans have access to quality health care is to confront these rising costs and the market distortions that created them,” Palazzo says.

Caring for the nation’s older generations is extremely important, Palazzo says, noting that this is the generation of World War II and Korean War veterans that did so much for protecting national interests and freedom across the globe.  

“Thousands of South Mississippians rely on these long-term health care services, and we will continue to work to keep these services affordable. Not only do they deserve our assistance, they have paid for it through their taxes over the course of their careers. As the average lifespan of Americans continues to increase, addressing the challenges to long term care will only increase, for the individual as well for the caregivers. Fortunately, seniors today have more and more choices,” he says.

His district is home to many veterans, and for that matter active duty military personnel, who take advantage of the area’s naturally mild temperatures and access to medical and long term care facilities tied to military installations.

“South Mississippi enjoys mild temperatures year-round, beautiful watersheds, rivers, islands, the Gulf of Mexico, and white sandy beaches. As such, it is a natural retirement destination,” Palazzo says. “The 4th Congressional District, particularly Harrison County, has one of the largest percentage populations of veterans, dependents, retirees, and active military personnel in the country. The largest portion of these veterans is from the World War II, Korean, and Vietnam War eras.”

Just like elsewhere in the country as the baby boomer generation enters retirement age, access to long term care facilities will be an important factor in determining where they will live out their golden years.

“South Mississippi is fortunate to be home to one of two Armed Forces Retirement Homes in the country and also home to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center adjacent to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi,” Palazzo says.   

Palazzo’s personal experience with long term care involves an uncle who required care when the family could no longer meet his health needs.

“When my uncle got so sick with Parkinson’s disease that my aunt could no longer care for him, the family decided it was best to put him in a long term care facility in Hattiesburg. That’s never an easy decision, but I can honestly say that the facility was clean and well-kept; he received quality care and was treated with dignity.

“In a difficult time, it was a relief for the family to know that he was being well cared for in his last days,” the congressman says.

As for broader health care issues, Palazzo has backed the repeal of pieces of the Obama reform law such as the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which in his view is another bureaucratic panel of unelected officials to control payment decisions and decide how patients’ services are paid for.

“There’s a reason people are so upset about this board, and I’ll continue to work to repeal it,” he says.