U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy covered an array of topics affecting the state and the nation in a town hall meeting in Minden Monday.
Medicare, Social Security and the U.S. Supreme Court topped the topics of discussion. Audience members asked questions about these and more, as Cassidy discussed things happening in the Senate to address these issues.
“Obamacare has driven up rates for everybody,” he said. “In Tennessee, an insurance company asked for a rate increase of 69 percent. A guy from Houma sent us his quote. Last year, he paid $200 a month for insurance, and this year, it’s $900 a month for insurance. From $200 to $900 in a year, and the deductible is going to be $10,000 for a family.”
He says from a quote in Keiser, a healthcare think tank, it showed that the out- of-pocket expense for someone with insurance in the last two years has risen 256 percent, whereas wages have only increased 32 percent.
“Everything else has kind of been stripped to put more towards healthcare,” he said. “This is not what we were promised.”
Cassidy is a gastroenterologist, and he says through his experience in the medical field, he knows these issues are pertinent. So, if Obamacare is ever repealed, he says he’s introduced legislation called, “The World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan.”
“Despite the catchy title, it’s serious legislation that I think, as a guy that worked in the public hospital system for 30 years, puts power back into the hands of the patient. When the patient has the power, the system lines up to serve them.”
He also talked about the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act, which gives resources to state and local law enforcement agencies to address drug addiction.
He is also working on a piece of legislation, called the Mental Health Reform Bill.
“Everyone in this room has been affected by major mental health issues,” he said. “It’s true in my family. The federal government spends a lot of money on mental health issues, but it’s wasted. We’re trying to use that federal tax dollar more efficiently and more effectively.”
He says the House has passed it, and it is expected to go before the Senate in September.
He says the biggest issue facing the nation is the economy – how to make it grow, create better jobs and benefits.
He also talked about border patrol, economic growth and the war against terrorism. He says it isn’t the Mexicans that are pouring across the border anymore, it is those from Central America, Africa and China.
“They have signs in the desert, so that if someone is lost and about to die of thirst, a sign in Chinese saying call this number or press this button and we’ll come rescue you,” he said.
“It’s a huge problem. Frankly, our government is not doing a very good job.”
Cassidy fielded questions from the audience, one of which came from a woman who’d worked for the state and had worked for the private sector almost as long. She says she feels as if she’s being penalized for drawing on retirement from both the private sector and the state.
Cassidy explained that’s one of the issues they are working on fixing but can’t until they fix the bigger issues of the national deficit. He talked about Social Security, saying that if things keep going as they are now, Social Security will be bankrupt within the next 15 to 17 years. The same thing is happening with Medicare.
When Medicare and Social Security were enacted, the average lifespan of a person was age 72. Today, that number has ballooned and people are living into their 90s and above, not to mention the advances in medicine.
When they both go bankrupt, he said, both will go down by 25 percent each, because the law dictates that it can only spend what it brings in.
On the economy, he says during the Reagan and Clinton years, economic growth was at three to four percent each year. Since then, it’s only been about one to two percent.
Ralph Yarborough, a retired judge from Texas, voiced his concerns about the next Supreme Court Justice appointment, saying he takes issue with these justices being appointed for life.
“It only takes five out of nine to tell 300 million people what to do,” he said. “If they say we have to let gays and lesbians get married, we have to do it. If they say we have to give earned income credit, we have to do it. No matter what, we have to do it. It’s worse than a dictatorship.”
He says it can be changed if congressmen and senators will do it. The problem is, he feels, is the justices become older and are living longer, and some may not be able to handle their responsibilities as well as they once could.
“I can certainly accept where the Supreme Court can lose touch with where the American people are,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy thanked everyone for coming out and showing their interest in what’s going on in the Senate. The Senate will meet Sept. 6.