EDINBURG — U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan visited Doctors Hospital at Renaissance on Wednesday to see firsthand how Medicaid cuts could affect the area and to possibly receive a contribution from the Border Health PAC.
Ryan’s Rio Grande Valley visit included a tour of the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit and the Rehabilitation Hospital, said Alonzo Cantu, DHR chairman of the hospital’s finance committee.
“He went to look at our rehab hospital. We got some new equipment that helps people that are handicapped walk,” the chairman said about the EksoGT exoskeleton. “It costs us a lot of money and we bought two.”
The devices — the only of its kind south of San Antonio and Houston — looks like a backpack with leg braces. It uses non-invasive sensors within the crutches to send signals to a computer worn on the patient’s back.
“And then he went to see our NICU,” Cantu said. “Our NICU is one of the top five percent in the country.”
The physician-owned hospital delivers record numbers each month and produces great results, he added.
“We deliver over 800 a month and close to 90 percent are Medicaid babies,” Cantu said.
The construction magnate declined to comment on a potential contribution given to Ryan through the hospital’s fundraising arm, the Border Health Political Action Committee.
Ryan has been meeting with business leaders throughout Texas and raising funds for the National Republican Congressional Committee while the House of Representatives is in recess.
“Speaker Ryan was glad to visit Doctors Hospital to learn about the fantastic care they are providing to hundreds of thousands of patients annually,” Kevin Seifert, a spokesman for Ryan’s congressional campaign, said in an email. “Their innovative approach to health care is without a doubt saving lives, and Speaker Ryan enjoyed speaking with physicians, nurses and administrators about how we can improve our nation’s health care systems.”
As for Cantu, he said the pair focused on what he called more pressing issues.
“We met for lunch and we talked about Medicaid cuts and how it affects us,” Cantu said. “We talked about GME (graduate medical education) funding for the medical school and trying to get more doctors into the area that are badly needed.”
He described Ryan as “smart,” “personable,” and said he was well versed in the topics up for discussion.
Ryan’s visit came the same day the Wisconsin Republican announced his opposition to a bipartisan Senate bill aimed at stabilizing Obamacare by restoring subsidies to health insurers. Last week, President Donald Trump announced cuts to the subsidies aimed at helping low-income enrollees pay for healthcare.
“The speaker does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare,” Ryan’s press secretary, Doug Andres, said in response to the bill on Wednesday.
As leader of the House, Ryan’s opposition presents a blow to the Senate bill introduced on Tuesday by Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash. The bill looks to give billions of dollars of federal subsidies to insurers for two years to help lower-income Americans obtain medical coverage.
Locally, however, the cuts are not expected to make a significant impact.
“We don’t get affected that much,” Cantu said. “Very few people have insurance — only 20 to 22 percent.”
Even so, the medical landscape of the area has changed dramatically in the past decade and will continue to do so, he added.
“We want to bring services that aren’t being offered, and we believe our people shouldn’t have to leave the Valley to get health care,” Cantu said. “We do this stuff with or without money and treat the poor and the underserved.”