Belfair, WA: Cantwell makes stops at Work Source and library during visit

By KEVAN MOORE, Belfair Herald


Belfair, WA - United States Senator Maria Cantwell came to Belfair for the first time last
week since being elected two years ago.

The senator visited the recently opened Work Source office in the Belfair
substation for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony before visiting the North
Mason Timberland Regional Library for a community discussion on health care.

While at the Work Source office, which opened its doors last month, Cantwell
used one of the computers to check job listings with a little help from
Aaron Washington, who runs the office, before heading outside to cut the
ribbon. When using the computer, the senator became one of the first people
to utilize the high-speed Internet access that comes with the recently
installed broadband fiber at the center.

"PEOPLE MAY not realize that this is the first Work Source center opened in
an unincorporated area in Washington State," Cantwell said once outside in
the sun. "And what that tells me, no pun intended, is that Belfair can stand
the heat. They know how to put things together to help their community
connect people to jobs and economic development. So, I'm so proud to be

Cantwell said that opening the Work Source office here in Belfair is a good
first step to what should become a trend all across the country.

"We need to be doing more at the national level to connect people to job
opportunities as our economy changes and the key element of that is to make
it accessible and flexible and that's exactly what you're doing by bringing
the resources into the community," she said. "That means you'll reach more
people. And while that's good for that individual who gets the job and
obviously gets off of unemployment or whatever situation they're in, it's
also good for that employer because they find somebody who can help with
their productivity, help them with their profitability and the bottom line
of that company. And why that's good is because it helps all of us to
support the community at large and that's what we need to do to keep moving
forward, so I'm excited to be here at this special event."

BEFORE HEADING to the library Cantwell took one more opportunity to applaud
local efforts at making it easier to connect people with jobs.

"I'm definitely going to take this back to Washington as an example of how
it's being done right in some of the rural areas in our state and I wish you
every success with this new facility," she said.

Once at the library, Cantwell briefly addressed energy regulation before
zeroing in on health care.

"OBVIOUSLY WE have some PUD people here and they understand the history and
legacy that Senator Scoop Jackson had as chair of the energy committee and
how he fought for public power in our state and really helped set a
framework to the affordability of cheap electricity which really was a
founding block of our state's economy," she said. "That is definitely being
challenged now, maybe not particularly in Mason County but in other parts of
our state, and we really have to fight hard. There are some that would like
to move even faster towards the deregulation model of California, or at
least have our power grid shared with the rest of the West, which is a
little scary given where all the prices have been, so we have to fight hard
to make sure that doesn't happen."

Cantwell went on to address the main reason for her visit to Belfair and one
of her main goals as a senator.

"I'm here to talk about health care and to talk about access and challenges
to the rural parts of our state and the delivery of the health-care system,"
she said. "The reason why I've come here is because I think you probably
have some unique situations that are happening in this county and I'm trying
to build a better case about the issues that are affecting rural health care
in America so that Senator Murray and I can take those issues to our
colleagues and hopefully pass legislation that will help improve the access
to health care in rural communities. This challenge is not unique to
Washington State although I think some of the aspects of our reimbursement
rates and various issues have made the challenge more complicated here."

CANTWELL SAID she is traveling all over the state, the meeting at the
library was the 12th stop of its kind that she's made so far, and
documenting what she hears to take back to the Senate Finance Committee. She
said that the primary challenges she's dealing with on the health-care front
are access to doctors and the cost of prescription drugs.

"Getting access through quality physicians in communities is a key issue and
our state is being challenged on two fronts," she said. "First of all, our
reimbursement rate is a lot lower than other states, I think 42nd in the
country. So what's happening is if you ask a physician to come to Washington
State they know the reimbursement rate for Medicare is lower which ends up
creating a ripple effect overall for how rates are set which means
physicians are going to make less. In the long term if people start knowing
that about your state they don't want to come here or a physician can get
lured away that is already here even though they might like the quality of

Cantwell said that she and Senator Patty Murray have introduced legislation
to move up the reimbursement rate and acknowledged that it will be a "tough
task" because "it's a huge budget item." She said Mason County's Medicare
and Medicaid populations are "off the charts" and are a clear case for
higher reimbursement rates.

CANTWELL SAID that when she returns to Congress she will continue to build
on the legacy of former Senator Warren Magnuson who was a key figure in
creating the National Health Service Corps. She said that the program can
still be improved and expanded to bring more doctors and nurses to rural

Cantwell said that she and her colleagues will also be taking another look
at the cost of prescription drugs.

"As we've made advances in medicine, much more of the health-care delivery
system does come through prescription drugs," she said. "So, now, as much as
30 percent of your overall health-care costs might be in prescription drugs
and yet they are becoming astronomical in their cost."

The national debate over that cost, CantwelL added, will have to continue.

(c) Belfair Herald

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