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      Congressional leaders tour hospital to better understand local health issues

      With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, just a few months away, SC 7th District Representative Tom Rice is taking a more public stance on health care.

      Rice visited hospitals around the district Wednesday with a fellow Republican congressman who Rice calls the "go-to guy" on health care issues.

      Rice said his tour, accompanied by Georgia 6th District Rep. Tom Price, was about listening to people who work in the real world of treating patients.

      "I want to do everything I can to be available to the health care industry and do whatever we can to promote the health of our constituents and the health of the health care industry," Rice said.

      Price spent 20 years as an orthopaedic surgeon in the Atlanta area before he was elected to Congress.

      He recently sponsored a bill that would give tax credits to help people buy health insurance, but wouldn't mandate coverage.

      Price says his bill is more focused on patients than is Obamacare.

      "HR 2300 is a bill that solves the problems of coverage and insurance challenges, saves hundreds of billions of dollars, makes certain that we move in the direction of patient-centered health care, which is patients and families and doctors making medical decisions, not Washington, DC," said Price.

      Both congressmen got an earful from Georgetown Hospital System officials about financial problems they face.

      They said Obamacare will cut Medicare payments to hospitals, while South Carolina has chosen to not expand Medicaid payments.

      The result is that Georgetown Hospital will have to make some $12 million in cuts, while treating at least the same number of patients.

      "We're looking at every expense, every contract, we've been working on this through the course of the year, made changes to contractual relationships, with third parties, and we're not finished," said Georgetown Hospital chief operating officer Gayle Resetar.

      Resetar says there's a proposed bill that would delay those Medicare cuts and if it passes, that would help, but in the meantime, they'll keep working on finding ways to save money.