Massachusetts Medical Society: ''We Have a Lot of Work to Do''

''We Have a Lot of Work to Do''

Vital Signs Talks with U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton

MMS Director of Federal and Community Relations Alex Calcagno recently sat down with U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton. Congressman Seth Moulton was born and raised in northeastern Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard in 2001 with a degree in physics, Moulton joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served four tours in Iraq as a Marine Corps infantry officer, including two tours as a platoon commander and two tours as a Special Assistant to General David Petraeus. He was elected to Congress in 2014 and serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Budget Committee.
Seth Moulton

VS You are a new member of Congress, a Democrat from Massachusetts. What has that experience been like so far?

REP. MOULTON I think it’s very difficult but many of us have come to Washington with a mandate from our constituents to work together with our colleagues across the aisle. The reality in Washington is that not many people do. The institution is set up to be very partisan; you don’t spend much time with people on the other side of the aisle. Most meetings, most social gatherings are essentially divided by party. So what I have been doing is reaching out to Republicans and getting to know them.… I went on two fact-finding missions for the Armed Services Committee and spent an awful lot of time getting to know the Republicans that were on those missions with me. I think that if you can develop a personal relationship with someone across the aisle then you can often have a professional relationship. One Republican reached out to me about a budget issue recently because he knows I am veteran. And I reached out to a Republican and we wrote an op-ed together. So the early signs are a little optimistic.

VS We know that veterans’ issues [are] obviously something of interest to you. Are there specific areas in terms of veteran health care?

REP. MOULTON I’m particularly concerned about veteran’s health care; I get my health care from the VA (Department of Veteran’s Affairs) and have made a pledge to continue to do so until we can get the system back on track. I have a lot of friends and colleagues from serving that are not getting the best care and I think that veterans deserve the best care. So there are a lot of improvements that we need to make in the system but there are some parts of the VA that work very well. My primary care physician for many years in Boston was one of the best primary care physicians I have ever had, but then it would take months to get an appointment if he referred me to someone else. The bureaucracy itself is broken and is really constructed for a different era. We have a lot of work to do.

VS Do you have specific ideas about initiatives you want to work on, particularly in health care?

REP. MOULTON One place that I am particularly concerned about is mental health care. So many veterans are coming back with mental injuries that weren’t survivable a decade ago and so the system isn’t set up to adequately handle them.

VS Tell us about your work on the medical device tax repeal effort.

REP MOULTON I have said from the beginning that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a huge step in the right direction for America. But I don’t think the ACA is perfect and this is an example of one of the tweaks that I think needs to be made. The problem with the medical device tax is that it disproportionately affects the small innovative companies that are actually driving the innovation that’s in the long run going to help lower health care costs. The 2.3 percent tax might not seem like much but it doesn’t come out of profits, it comes out of revenue and for a small company that doesn’t have a big compliance team, they need to hire people just to implement the tax and so the actual cost to the company is much higher than the 2.3 percent. It needs to change now. I’m working with my Democrat and Republican colleagues to try and find some offsets for the revenue because we can’t ignore that.

VS Do you have bipartisan support?

REP. MOULTON We do have bipartisan consensus on this issue. We have 400 med tech companies in Massachusetts, about 23,000 people directly employed and there are about 75,000 people that are indirectly employed. So it’s huge.

VS Has anything surprised you so far about your experience in Congress?

REP. MOULTON You can make a difference if you’re willing to reach out and I think you have to pick your battles. I’m a freshman in a minority party but I have been able to have an impact on some issues, mainly because I’m careful about where I focus my efforts. ISIS and Ukraine are the topics in people’s minds right now, everyone’s very concerned and I think with good reason. That’s why I went out on those two fact-finding missions. It is unusual to get on Armed Services as a freshman.

VS What drove you to run for national office?

REP. MOULTON I’m happy to answer that. It really is because of my time in the war. I saw some of the consequences of failed leadership of Washington when I was in Iraq and I would like to have a small part in fixing that. But I did not grow up wanting to be a politician. This is all new.

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