In a telephone town hall meeting last week, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick addressed President Trump’s travel ban and the Affordable Care Act, occasionally speaking in opposition to the White House stances on these issues .
That was all in addition to discussing the opioid epidemic, which was billed as the meeting’s main topic.
Following an in-person roundtable at Bucks County Community College on the subject the day before, Fitzpatrick described the opioid epidemic as a multifaceted problem and stressed the need for stronger border security, a national database for doctors prescribing opioids and for doctors and pharmaceutical companies to take more responsibility.
At home, Fitzpatrick supported the state’s Physician Drug Monitoring Program, which aims to cut down on doctor and pharmaceutical “shopping” by requiring doctors and dispensaries to log the prescription and sales of controlled substances.
He called for the database to be national, so that people could not circumvent it by getting multiple prescriptions in different states — a tactic that’s relatively easy in the Northeast coast, where the opioid problem is especially prevalent.
To that point, he also called on doctors and pharmaceutical companies to take more responsibility in prescribing and marketing certain drugs, and to remove addictive substances and produce them in non-crushable forms to prevent abuse.
While Fitzpatrick called for more treatment of mental health issues that correlate with drug abuse, he also stressed the need for prevention strategies.
“If we’re constantly in a treatment situation, I think we’re missing the boat,” he said.
He also signaled a need for more security at the Mexican border, noting the majority of drugs and guns come from Mexico and Colombia, along with Afghanistan, but also acknowledged the increase of heroin being smuggled in from China and India.
“Drug dealers are very smart business people,” said Fitzpatrick. “They see demand and they are going to supply that demand.”
If his view of the borders somewhat aligned with President Trump’s plans to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, Fitzpatrick unequivocally disagreed with the White House’s moves regarding terrorism and immigration.
In particular, he opposed the “travel ban,” which restricted access to people from seven Muslim-majority countries, which was enacted to prevent terrorism.
“I thought the executive order missed the mark,” he said. Citing his experience in the FBI and Homeland Security, he called it an “oversimplification” and “not an intelligent counter strategy.”
“Terrorism is no longer a regional threat … Bad people live in really nice places, and good people live in tough places.”
Fitzpatrick was softer, but not by much, on the topic of immigration in general..
“We are a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. We must respect both,” he said, stressing “our duty as Americans” to not single out any group of people
“We can keep our country safe and still respect the rights of immigrants. I don’t believe they are mutually exclusive,” said Fitzpatrick. “I think we can advance both and we must advance both … I’m going to be front and center on that.”
Elsewhere, he described the Affordable Care Act as in a “death spiral” due to skyrocketing premiums and deductibles, but did not subscribe to his party’s calls to repeal it. However, he also noted beneficial aspects of the law, including Medicaid expansions, treatment for pre-existing conditions and the right for children to stay on their parents’ health care plans until they are 26, and said the law needed to be “rescued.”
He suggested interstate competition, which can drive down premium costs, and medical liability reform, which could prevent doctors from ordering “unnecessary” tests in the interest of avoiding lawsuits, as ways to fix the law.
Fitzpatrick also expressed reservations about alternates to the ACA, particularly tax credits versus subsidies for premiums. People in middle- to lower-income households, he said, can’t afford to wait until they do their taxes to receive the credits.
“There have been good things. We need to keep what’s working and fix what’s broken,” he said. ••