Head: Sen. Emmett Hanger a proven leader on health care issues

By Mary N. Mannix

Leadership takes many forms, but effective leaders share common traits.

A leader must have resolve in the face of tough challenges, situational awareness, and the humility and patience to recognize the strength and weakness in themselves and in others.

Most importantly, a leader must understand that controversial decisions should strive to be beneficial for all concerned, even if the decision is inconvenient, unpopular, or just plain frustrating. One of the leadership litmus tests is how a leader approaches and navigates difficult decisions that are unlikely to please everyone.

In those situations, a leader’s morals, ethics, and values are the guideposts steering them toward the proper and just choice.

This is true whether the decision applies to the workplace, the home, or in the halls of government.

Here in the Shenandoah Valley, we have an elected leader who time and again has demonstrated an unshakeable commitment to doing the right thing even when it’s difficult.

That leader is Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon.

During his distinguished tenure in the Virginia General Assembly, Hanger has been a stalwart advocate for the Valley, its people, and our way of life.

Public service is a lifelong calling for Emmett. He served this nation in the U.S. Army as a young man before devoting much of his adult life to being our trusted elected representative in the Virginia General Assembly.

People in our community know Hanger’s character. It’s why we send him back to Richmond every few years — we can count on Emmett to stand strong for our best interests when political pressure mounts.

And it’s why his colleagues have made Hanger co-chairman of the prestigious Senate Finance Committee. He is one of the select few state legislators who helps negotiate the state budget each year.

It’s an asset to our community to have a local leader in that position to ensure fiscal prudence is exercised when decisions about public resources are made.

I’ve seen Hanger’s brand of steadfast, fiscally responsible leadership up close.

One of the things I appreciate most about Emmett is his lack of pretense. If he tells you something, you can take it to the bank.

While Emmett and I may not always be on the same side of political or policy issues, I always know he is a man of his word who does what he says. I also know he will have made a decision by weighing all of the issues carefully, ultimately deciding in favor of a decision that strives to be beneficial for all concerned.

Hanger thoughtfully examines issues, he listens intently to his constituents, he prayerfully considers the impact of decisions, and he always votes his conscience with the concerns of Virginians front and center in his mind.

One example of that leadership is the pivotal role Hanger had in brokering a bipartisan compromise last year to extend health care coverage to thousands of uninsured Virginians.

Virginia’s reluctance to broaden health care access meant the Commonwealth was sending billions in tax dollars to Washington without recovering that money, resulting in many uninsured patients receiving health care in an inefficient way.

Without insurance, many people landed in hospital emergency departments as their health issues escalated.

The combination of losing tax dollars and providing care in that inefficient way was untenable — it’s one of the reasons health insurance premiums kept rising.

Hanger recognized that for the good of Virginia that status quo couldn’t continue.

So, he worked with General Assembly colleagues to broker a deal that called on hospitals like Augusta Health to collectively contribute millions of dollars to cover the state’s cost to administer this new health care program. I can tell you that I, and my colleagues in the hospital community, had mixed feelings about this approach.

Ultimately, we accepted a proposal that protects the state economy, is in the best interest of many Virginians who lacked adequate health care access, and is an investment in the Commonwealth where we all live, work, and play.

New health care coverage is helping many of our friends and neighbors — more than 35,000 people in our region have gained new health coverage since January, including more than 9,600 in Hanger’s district.

Hanger’s leadership on health care is making a real difference in people’s lives while protecting the state economy. We are fortunate to have Emmett representing our community in the General Assembly.

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Mary N. Mannix, FACHE, is a nurse by training and the President and CEO of Augusta Health. She wrote this opinion piece as a private citizen.

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