CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Dr. Matthew Hahn is not a fan of labels.
Hahn, a family physician from Berkeley Springs, says political division has created gridlock and animosity nationwide.
“You accuse someone of being a lefty, and we don’t talk about ideas or issues anymore,” he said. “I think we need to get rid of all of those labels and focus on ideas and how we can work together to fix things. I don’t think of issues in terms of the left way to think of it or the right way to think of it. I take an issue at face value and try to come up with solutions.”
The current state of politics led to Hahn launching a bid for the 2nd Congressional District and a challenge to U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney for the Republican nomination.
Hahn was a registered independent until last September.
“Where we are in this district, I don’t believe that a Democrat or an independent can win,” he said.
Hahn began considering a congressional bid after two cases in his practice; patients asked Hahn to delay treatment because they did not have insurance.
“What we had to go through to try to get them care was awful,” he said.
“It’s the year 2020. We know so much more about diagnosing and treating diseases than ever before — we literally have miracles at our fingertips — and yet patients can’t get the care they need. They really suffer, and they die. All our leaders do in Washington is fight each other, and health care never gets fixed.”
Access to treatment and cost are the biggest problems in health care according to Hahn; the Kaiser Family Foundation notes 27.9 million nonelderly Americans were uninsured in 2018, although the rate is lower than before former President Barack Obama’s health care law went into place.
“Maybe worse, a lot of people that do have insurance still can’t get the care they need,” Hahn said. “They have these policies with high deductibles and co-pays. There are these random denials of care. There are prior authorization processes that make it nearly impossible for us to get patients the care they need.”
Hahn also noted health care spending makes up 18% of the United States’ GDP.
“It’s squeezing out other things that we need to spend money on,” he said.
Hahn has previously written about regulation in the medical profession, publishing a book, “Distracted: How Regulations Are Destroying the Practice of Medicine and Preventing True Health-Care Reform,” in 2017.
“What we really need is more balance to the system,” he told C-SPAN in August 2017.
“We have a system that’s built around government bureaucrats. It’s built around insurance company administrators. The odd man out is the patient and their health care providers. We really need more balance to the system where we have good regulation rather than excessive regulation.”
Hahn told MetroNews elected leaders have done little in addressing health care costs, blaming the hostility in politics as well as the influence of money. He spoke against the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allowing unlimited corporate and union spending in federal elections.
“We have a system that’s based in conflict of interest, which is an important problem,” he said. “When it comes to health care, I don’t think it’s how to fix health care that is the problem. It’s how to get anybody to do anything.”
Hahn would support legislation placing caps on campaign spending in addition to a bill setting term limits for members of Congress.
“We have to re-establish the connection between elected leaders and the people they represent. Getting money out of politics is the first and most important thing we need to do,” he said.
When discussing the drug crisis, Hahn said the matter is the byproduct of low wages and increasing health care costs.
“There’s a sense of hopelessness that takes over, and I think that’s what leads to the mindset that I’m in a foreign party and I’m going to take a pill,” he said. “That’s how a lot of these things start.”
During his interview with MetroNews, Hahn did not mention the incumbent Mooney until the end. He said his campaign is not driven by getting Mooney out of office.
“People after eight years of Alex Mooney being in office, they know what he’s about,” Hahn said. “I’m here to provide something different. I’m really looking to get away from the negativity and division because I think it’s such an important issue.”
Mooney has championed himself as an ally to President Donald Trump, who won the 2nd District by 36 points in the 2016 election.
Hahn did not say whom he supported in 2016 and did not endorse Trump’s re-election effort.
“I’m not against President Trump,” he added.
Hahn knows he is the underdog in the contest. A runner, he is preparing his “Running for Your Life” outreach effort to meet as many voters as possible before the May 12 primary election.
“It’s a daunting task, but it’s really important,” he said. “I think you can make breakthroughs and you just got to get out there and try. I’m going to do it.”
Democrat Cathy Kunkel does not have a primary opponent and will face Mooney or Hahn in the general election contest.