U.S. Congressman Glenn 'GT' Thompson, R-Howard, recently outlined his legislative priorities for 2012 as the 112th Congress.
“We start 2012 with momentum. On Dec. 31, 2011, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill I introduced this year, the 'Service Members Telemedicine and E-Health Portability Act,' or 'STEP Act,' which will expand mental and health care access to our nation’s service members," Thompson said.
He said the Department of Defense (DOD) is currently limited in allowing health care professionals to provide care when patients are in another state or rural location due to licensing requirements - the health care professionals must be licensed in the state where the patient is treated, which restricts them to certain locations and forces returning service members to travel for treatment, sometimes over long distances. Thompson said the STEP Act will remove the state licensure requirement, allowing health care providers to treat patients using telemedicine and other types of e-health applications to provide more flexibility for patients.
"After working with DOD officials and staff to identify obstacles to behavioral care that service members encounter upon returning from war, it became apparent that this state licensure requirement presented obstacles to our service members in numerous areas of healthcare, and most especially those in rural and remote areas," Thompson said. "The STEP Act will enhance access for both behavioral and physical health services so that a local Reservist struggling with the transition to civilian life in Pennsylvania can pick up the phone or go on their computer, anytime and anyplace, and access care from a behavioral health care specialist.
"This expansion of service will impact a range of care venues for millions of active duty, National Guard, Reserve members or retired service members, as well as their families."
Thompson was named chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry for 2012. He said the subcommittee will focus on several important areas that affect economic development and public safety.
"In 2012, we will continue legislative oversight of the U.S. Forest Service, including assuring that the USFS meets it responsibility for timber harvesting to support our local economies and the health of our forests," Thompson said. "Another key priority for 2012 will be passage of the 2012 Farm Bill to assure Americans continue to have the most affordable, highest quality and safest food supply in the world.”
Thompson said the federal government as a whole needs to focus on reducing the national debt and controlling costs.
“America’s federal budget deficits have reached historic levels, federal spending is at its highest mark since 1945, and today our national debt is now larger than our entire economy. Without spending discipline and comprehensive budget and tax reforms, raising taxes as some propose will not solve our nation’s debt crisis and will seriously harm small businesses," Thompson said. "And simply put, throwing more money at our economic problems has gone on for too long in Washington."
Thompson said budget reforms to reduce federal spending and help the country achieve fiscal solvency were passed by House Republicans during the last legislative session, reforms he said were implemented for the first time in decades.
Pick up a copy of the Friday, Feb. 10, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.