RUMFORD — U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, met Saturday afternoon with officials at Rumford Hospital and greeted patients.

He then traveled to the Rumford Community Home where he greeted several of the nursing home’s residents before holding a 45-minute session with residents Connie Tutlis and Muriel Arsenault and administrator Jeff Lacroix to assess needs.

Tutlis was Mexico’s past Republican town chairwoman, who has served on several local and state committees and has volunteered at the Victorian Villa Nursing Home in Canton. Arsenault spent decades in the kitchen named after her at Black Mountain Ski Resort, feeding the scores of volunteers needed to make the ski meets run smoothly.

Lacroix told Poliquin about the drastic challenges of providing long-term care to seniors, especially the huge differences between residential care and the nursing level of care.

“Even though it’s one facility, we have to treat them as two separate entities, and the public doesn’t understand that element,” he said. “It’s because of reimbursement and just the way that they are recognized at the state and federal level. Those differences create drastic challenges.”

For example, Lacroix said, Gov. Paul LePage has money in his budget to assist the nursing level of care, but the residential care side hasn’t had the same kind of recognition.

He gave Poliquin the analogy of entering one town from another. “You see it in the pavement; same thing here,” he said.

“The nursing side looks different than the residential care side,” he said. “The reimbursements are so drastic, and the allocation of payments, they’re allocated as such where it tells you how to spend the money. So it puts us in a tough bind if we don’t have the cash flow where you can’t provide the changes.”

Lacroix and Tutlis said those differences in reimbursement were creating problems for Tutlis’ long-term care needs. Tutlis said she has been moved from nursing home to nursing home across the state before ending up in the Rumford Community Home.

Poliquin said he would make sure their voices are heard in Washington and find a solution.

He said he came to Rumford to stay in touch with Maine’s senior citizens while trying to ensure they have the care they need after earning it by working most of their lives before retiring.

“I want to make sure I learn as much as I can about the needs we have for our senior citizens, especially so that I can advocate for that down in Washington,” he said.

His earlier visit to Rumford Hospital “was really important to make sure I understood their business model and the care that they are providing for our seniors,” Poliquin said.

Visiting and talking with senior citizens at the nursing home was an extension of that, albeit from a long-term care standpoint.

Poliquin, who was Maine’s state treasurer from 2011 to 2013, said he is on a congressional committee that deals with financial services and not specifically health care.

“However, the job that I have in Washington, I believe, is more than my committee,” he said. “It’s anything that affects my district — whether it be jobs at the mills, energy prices, taxes, health care — all of that is part of my job. So I get involved in all of this, not just what’s on my committee.”

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