The rolling hills and flatland of southeast and south central Missouri are a beautiful place during the Holiday Season; we take time to gather with family and friends, and we also reflect on the previous days and months throughout the year. For those of us who are Christians, Christmas is a joyful time of celebration for the birth of our savior, and also a reminder that the true spirit of the Holiday is the gift of giving itself.

One of the things we are often most thankful for this time of year is good health and well-being, but with escalating costs of care and government mandates coming in between you and your doctor of choice, our entire healthcare system is something that many families are rightfully concerned about this year.

Over the next week, I will be conducting half a dozen healthcare roundtables throughout southeast and south central Missouri. I plan to meet with doctors, patients, pharmacists, small business owners, families and anyone else interested in discussing the rising cost of care in this country. We need to have an open and honest discussion about the impact Obamacare has had on coverage and access to care, the collapsing of the Obamacare marketplace, and solutions for how we can provide fair, open, transparent and affordable healthcare coverage in this country. I will be hosting roundtables in Farmington, Cape Girardeau, Kennett, Poplar Bluff, West Plains and Rolla.

I believe it is important to hear directly from families about the struggles they are experiencing and the changes they would like to see in healthcare. I have already heard a great deal from people across southeast and south central Missouri who have been personally impacted by diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and opioid addiction who desperately want to strengthen research and delivery systems to find better treatments and ultimately cures for these diseases. I’ve also heard from parents whose children are suffering from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy who want a cure so that their children can enjoy the same simple joys as other children. I’ve heard from the epilepsy community who want to accelerate the discovery and development of new therapies that individuals with epilepsy need to help them live their lives to the fullest potential, as well as the ALS community who are in desperate need of a treatment for ALS, which at this point has no effective treatment option and leaves patients with few options. And, I also heard from some of the 11,000 folks across southeast and south central Missouri who are living with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) who are some of those most in need of access to affordable and flexible high-quality care that they are currently being denied access to by the federal government.

These stories and the painful struggles so many families have shared have had a profound impact on me personally. Recently, “21st Century Cures” was passed and signed into law and while it included important provisions to advance medical research in this country, it also included language I authored to provide those with ESRD more choice, options and flexibility in their care coverage. My provision removed an arbitrary government rule which stood in the way of these patients from receiving the care they deserve.

My hope is that the healthcare roundtables we conduct in the coming weeks will bring forward more stories and issues and provide us a better understanding of how to address the real problems, while also making a difference for our families. The ideas and problems we identify will be something I can then work directly with the new Trump Administration and incoming Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on in order to include those ideas in our healthcare replacement for the disastrous Obamacare. I have found the incoming Administration to be open and accessible and really interested in getting healthcare coverage right in this country while lowering out of pocket costs for patients. I want to share your ideas directly with them. I also hope to find better ways to work with the local resources we have like the recently opened Delbert Day Cancer Institute in Rolla which will help provide better treatments for cancer patients. However, perhaps the thing I am looking towards the most is the chance to meet new families, and make new friends, and provide greater hope during this season of giving.

Jason Smith represents Missouri’s 8th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. Contact him at 573-335-0101 or visit

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