Coble makes stop in Rowan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 24, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — U.S. Rep. Howard Coble wanted to make it clear Wednesday — he’s not out of Rowan County yet.
The Republican lawmaker visited Wednesday on quick tour that included a stop at Rowan Regional Medical Center.
Before talking with a few hospital administration officials about Medicaid and a south Rowan highway interchange, he took time to explain where his district is.
The 6th district currently includes a large part of Rowan County on the southeastern side, as well as most of Davidson County.
Under maps approved by the N.C. General Assembly, the district would shift north and include only two counties Coble currently represents — Guilford and Alamance.
Coble said while he can get to know the voters in his new district, he’s “sick about” losing Rowan and the other counties.
“It’s not unlike family members,” Coble said. “You get accustomed to the counties you represent, and you feel like you’re losing a family member.”
U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell’s 8th District would stretch in from Cabarrus County to fill the void left by Coble.
But the new maps still must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice, and political analysts have said they expect people to file lawsuits challenging them.
Either way, Coble said, this visit to Rowan County is not his swan song.
“You’re stuck with me for at least another year and a half,” Coble said. “That much is known.”
Interchange project
Dari Caldwell, president of Rowan Regional Medical Center, asked Coble if he could help with efforts to get an Interstate 85 interchange in southern Rowan County.
“With the health care reform, we’re going to thrive on growth,” she said. “The southern part of our county is where there’s the most growth… so that southern part of the county is very critical to the survival of the Rowan hospital.”
She said she has been working closely with land developers to potentially create an outpatient center there if the exchange is built.
“I think it’s very badly needed for the development of the economy of China Grove and Landis,” Caldwell said.
Coble said he has been talking about that issue with Fred Steen, who is quite involved in trying to make the interchange happen, and suggested Caldwell do the same.
Later, Caldwell expressed concern about more possible Medicaid cuts when the hospital is already struggling in a bad economy.
“For the last month, of all the patients we took care of in the emergency department, 70 percent did not have insurance,” Caldwell said. “And we collect just 4 percent of charges from people who are uninsured.”
Coble responded, “Oh, boy — and you, of course, have to absorb that.”
She said “yes,” and the hospital already has been trying to cut costs elsewhere and eliminate waste. Reductions in Medicaid reimbursements to poor and disabled patients mean hospitals must pay for more of their treatment.
“One of our biggest challenges is to provide high-quality health care in the safest and best manner, and to do it on a very tight budget,” Caldwell said. “So for us, any reimbursement cuts can really have an impact.”
Coble said it’s clear that the hospital’s administration really cares about the work it does.
“It seems that you have a hands-on approach to this daily operation, and that’s impressive,” he said.
Election thoughts
Coble visited Duke Energy’s Buck Steam Plant in Spencer earlier on Wednesday.
Then, after his visit to the hospital, he stopped by Mario’s in Salisbury for lunch.
While waiting for his order, he shared some thoughts on the 2012 elections.
He called U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, whose district is set to move into northwestern Rowan County, a “very diligent worker” who would do a good job representing the county if re-elected. She is also a Republican.
For U.S. president, Coble said he still prefers the candidate he endorsed in 2008.
“My favorite is (Mitt) Romney,” Coble said. “He probably brings more favorable credentials to the table and less baggage.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
Facebook: Karissa.SalisburyPost