By Kyle Spurr / kspurr@chronline.com

Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, spent her lunch hour Thursday afternoon at Ramblin Jack’s Rib Eye in Napavine listening to small business owners and representatives from Lewis County.

Herrera Beutler led the discussion focusing on issues such as health care, energy, taxes and the ability to export goods. Overall, Herrera Beutler emphasized the importance of small businesses, which account for 60 to 80 percent of all American jobs.

“Across the region people having work and providing for their families is the No. 1 issue,” Herrera Beutler told the group Thursday. “As people on the front lines, I’d like to hear from you.”

Attendees at the roundtable included: Scott Nolan, MDK Construction; Carmen Rowe, Jessica Jensen Law;  Luke Moerke, Exodus Engineering and Moerke & Sons; Adam Kugel, Kugel Corp.; Jessica Rice, Express Personnel; Rick Borovec, TwinStar Credit Union; Troy Nichols, Olympia Master Builders; Sen. John Braun, of Braun Northwest; Rodney Youckton, Chehalis Tribe; Matt Matayoshi, Lewis County EDC; Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund; and Dan Rich, Tin Men Supply.

Rich, who serves as the board of directors president for Pope’s Kids Place, talked about concerns he has for the children’s respite center as health care cost rise.

Herrera Beutler — whose year-old baby, Abigail Rose, was diagnosed with Potter syndrome, meaning she was born without kidneys — said she could relate to Pope’s Kids Place mission of serving children with special needs.

Herrera Beutler introduced a bill earlier this year that would create nationally designated children’s hospital networks to care for children with medical complexity, a term used to describe children with cancer, congenital heart disease, cystic fibrosis and Down syndrome, or other conditions that require constant care and medical expertise.

“I have a daughter who is medically complex. I understand that world. I understand all of the weekly costs,” Herrera Beutler said. “I’m very concerned that the health care bill is exacerbating the cost of care and it’s going to cost more of the providers and especially the specialist.”

Much of the roundtable discussion revolved around the small business owners’ concerns over the Affordable Care Act. Attendees shared stories about businesses considering possibly cutting health care benefits to balance costs.

“I believe in access to health care. We are Americans. I don’t want to see people (not treated),” Herrera Beutler, who is up for election this November, said. “My biggest challenge with the bill that was passed is I don’t think it is making the access issue easier. What I am hearing is it’s taking away choices and options.”

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