Sunday, September 21st, 2014
Mostly True
Tennessee Democratic Party
"Congressman Phil Roe hands out $1.3M government check" from a federal program that "he voted against."

Tennessee Democratic Party on Saturday, January 7th, 2012 in a press release

Democrats claim GOP doctor voted against check he presented to hospital

Politicians like to hand out government checks, especially when the money is for a worthy project in their district or rewards a business or company for a job well done.

But the Tennessee Democratic Party accused U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, of hypocrisy after he showed up at Takoma Regional Hospital in Greeneville on Jan. 5 to present a $1.3 million check from the federal government. Roe, by the way, is a physician, and his website prominently places "M.D." after his name at every opportunity and mentions he has delivered "close to 5,000 babies."

But Democrats are calling him a hypocrite: "Congressman Phil Roe Hands Out $1.3M Government Check – He Voted Against," the party proclaimed in a press release. The release included a photo of a smiling Roe and hospital officials holding a poster-sized copy of a check, with the caption underneath reading: "GOP Congressman Roe: Do as I say, not as I do."

Roe is hardly the first congressman to stand accused of saying one thing and doing another. But we wondered if the charges were true: Did he really deliver a check that he voted against?

The $1.3 million that Takoma Regional received was for partial reimbursement of the health-care facility’s investment in an electronic health record system that the hospital says speeds up care and gives patients electronic access to their records.

The money comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the economic stimulus package that Congress passed shortly after President Barack Obama took office. The legislation directed billions of dollars to encourage health-care facilities to adopt electronic record-keeping. Facilities and physicians who meet certain health and efficiency goals through their use of electronic records are eligible for reimbursement payments from the Medicare and Medicaid systems.

Takoma Regional spent about $5 million converting to an electronic records system that meets the requirements set out by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The $1.3 million from the federal government was for partial reimbursement of that investment.

Roe did vote against the economic stimulus package when it received final approval in the House by a vote of 246-183 on Feb. 13, 2009. In a press release at the time, Roe called the bill "the single largest infusion of spending in American history" and complained it had been rushed through Congress. He also argued it did not include enough funding for infrastructure projects.

"I strongly support a stimulus initiative for our nation, but it must be a stimulus bill that grows our economy, creates jobs and doesn’t saddle our grandchildren with unnecessary debt," he said.

But while Roe voted against the stimulus funding, he did not technically vote against the check for Takoma Regional. Congress does not vote on each reimbursement check – the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services automatically distributes the money to health-care facilities and physicians that meet the criteria.

It may be a case of splitting hairs, but while Roe voted against the stimulus bill that provided the funding to reimburse Takoma Regional, he did not actually vote against the program that funded the grant to Takoma Regional – because there was no vote.

One more thing to consider: There was no actual, physical check, said Lyndon Gallimore, Takoma Regional’s director for marketing and business development. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services put the money into the hospital’s banking account back in November via direct deposit. The hospital made up a poster-sized copy of a fake check and invited Roe to present it at the ceremony, Gallimore said.

"We called and invited him because we felt like this was a significant first in our area," Gallimore said. "He’s the closest representative that we have in the federal government, and that’s why we called him."

Roe sees nothing wrong with Takoma Regional getting its share of the stimulus funding, even though he opposed the bill.

"You can’t spend over $816 billion and not do some good things," the congressman said in a statement. "But the real question is, was the stimulus legislation a waste of taxpayer dollars?"

Our ruling

Congressman Roe voted against the stimulus bill that provided the reimbursement funding for Takoma Regional and later showed up at a ceremony in which the hospital announced it had received the funding. But because Roe did not vote against this particular hospital receiving that specific $1.3 million federal reimbursement for converting to electronic medical records, we’re going with Mostly True on the Tennessee Democratic Party’s claim.