U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., spoke about the opioid crisis and healthcare Tuesday as he toured the new Liberty Regional Medical Associates, Long County Campus.
The new primary care facility opened in January on the site of the former adult day care center adjacent to Coastal Manor Long Term Care facility. Both facilities are a part of Liberty Regional Medical Center in Hinesville.
LRMC Executive Director Michael Hester gave Carter a tour, saying the clinic also helps the hospital through referrals and benefits people living in rural areas.
“What we are trying to do is expand our reach and provide better care for the population,” Hester said.
The clinic has a nurse practitioner, Florence Baggs who also does rounds at Coastal Manor adding a level of care.
Hester said the clinic will have to family physicians on staff soon as well.
“We know that primary care is the key to taking care of the population,” Hester said.
After touring the facility, Carter talked about the importance of having primary care facilities in rural areas that also have quick access to local hospitals.
Carter said there have been several discussions going on in Congress about the infrastructure needed to support clinics and hospitals in rural locations.
Those include having access to high speed internet and broadband, accessible roads and incentives for physicians.
Carter added Congress is also focusing on lowering healthcare costs.
“We’ve been talking about healthcare the whole time and obviously it was a big subject last year when we tried to repeal and replace Obama Care and we didn’t,” he said. “What we are doing now is that we are addressing healthcare costs.”
He said one of the items congress is reviewing is the cost of prescription medications. As an example Carter spoke about a $75,000 drug used to treat hepatitis C.
“We have the drug but it has to be accessible,” he said. “And that is just not accessible to a lot of people. This is the kind of thing we need to address and be talking about.”
He also noted they are working on tightening loopholes certain businesses are using that exploit the 340B drug discount program. Carter said the opioid epidemic is a two-fold problem and it is impacting the workforce.
“First off all, you have the tangible part that you can kind of get your arms around,” he said. “And that is how do you prevent it? It requires education and physician education and limiting the number of pills you can get. But then you have the second part of that problem which is the 11.5 million people who are currently addicted.”
He said there need to be better programs made accessible to all seeking treatment while also finding methods to encourage those who are addicted, to seek help.