LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - While Congress is on recess, Representative Clay Higgins visited the Lake Area Thursday to tour CHRISTUS Ochsner Lake Area Hospital, specifically the Wellness, Screening and Genetics building and the NICU.
While there he spoke on his office’s efforts on getting early access to healthcare for all Americans, regardless of economic or insurance status.
Medicaid is sort of a reflection of our duty as a nation as a compassionate nation to provide expanded access to healthcare for all Americans," Rep. Higgins said. “And we support that.”
“It meant a lot to us that he wanted to tour our facility here at Lake Area Hospital,” Kevin Holland, CEO of CHRISTUS Ochsner Health System, said. “He met a lot of our staff and saw a lot of the great work we are doing here in Southwest Louisiana. We are doing a lot of innovative, cutting edge technology healthcare here and it was great to show our Congressman what we are doing here.”
The first stop of the tour was the Wellness, Screening and Genetics Center, where the hospital has been using genetic testing to see if someone is at risk for certain illnesses that could be passed on from their family. The hospital states, “By offering newly developed tools for identifying both genetic and lifestyle cancer risk, advanced imaging technology and personalized management of cancer risk, this program enables patients to understand and address their risk at a much earlier stage in their lives.” Rep. Higgins says touring the Center was personal.
“What touched me from a personal point of view is not exactly what we are acting on professionally or as a congressional office,” Rep. Higgins said. “Personally, my wife has MS, she has a high risk in her family for breast cancer, and to have imagery systems here that are next-generation, 21st-century stuff, I mean, she had an exam yesterday. As her husband, I am involved and we have lost friends to breast cancer, so seeing some of the new equipment here, that’s what hit my heart.”
“Healthcare affects us all,” Holland said. “It was especially impactful to show him something near and dear to him and his family. We didn’t know that, but to show him our new breast center and to see he was extremely interested in it and very involved and it was good to have that connection to him to see we are really making an impact here in our community and bringing something that is really innovative to the community and you can tell he was especially proud of that.”
One of the topics discussed on his tour of the hospital was accessible healthcare for those living in rural areas of the state.
“In rural communities, it is quite a challenge and of course, our poorer citizens need access to early healthcare screenings and treatment," Rep. Higgins said. “As I have explained, my ideology is that a healthy American citizenry is a productive American citizenry. So if we can expand the years of health and work for the citizens that we serve, then that’s good for the bottom line of the country. If you decrease the end-of-life care, which is very expensive, as compared to early access to screenings and medical care and professional medical advice and counseling, then you create a healthier citizenry. Medicaid is reflective of that.”
Higgins says access to early healthcare will help Americans in the long run and while Medicaid has its shortfalls, he still supports it.
“We have had some issues of fraud and abuse within Medicaid and we are completely against that because to me that is theft, theft from our most needy Americans,” Rep. Higgins said. “It has some issues, and we have to be courageous enough to address, it, but generally speaking, Medicare, Medicaid, these programs are reflective of a compassionate nation, which we certainly are.”
Higgins says he and his staff took notes during the tour that he will take back to Capitol Hill to address with Congress at the federal level.
“For instance, there is a gap in coverage once a patient hits 64,” Rep. Higgins said. “Because of the way the law is written, there is a weird interpretation that we think we can fix, so we are going to address that.”
“What happens in Washington is very important to us in healthcare,” Holland said. “Medicare, Medicaid, it is vital to our livelihood here and healthcare is so important. Healthcare is 20% of our national economy and it’s a very big part of our economy in Lake Charles. So to have Congressmen who try to improve the healthcare for locals and understand the important connection between financing piece of healthcare and what we are doing day in and day out is vital.”
He says he plans to speak to Louisiana legislators on things they could potentially fix at the state level as well.
Congress is back in session on October 15.