With a panel of speakers that included Senator Jerry Rhoads, Representative-elect Ben Waide, Representative Eddie Ballard, and Representative Jim Gooch, the Legislative Breakfast focused on 2011 priorities that will affect both our local area and state, such as Healthcare/Medicaid reform, budgeting, and a variety of infrastructure/construction efforts.
Falling within the above categories, several specific priorities were lined-out, which are as follows: construction of the Mid Town Commons access road (connecting East Center St. and Island Ford Rd.), completion of the Regional Sports Complex, funding for Interstate 69 upgrades to Pennyrile Parkway, improvements to water systems for Madisonville’s north side, building for Murray State University’s Madisonville campus, efforts for the Madisonville-Hanson Wastewater Treatment project, Medicaid Finance Reform, a relocation of the CSX railroad tracks from downtown Madisonville, Grapevine neighborhood sidewalks, and the widening of US 41-A.
While on the topic of the state’s economic status and budget, Senator Rhoads commented that, “It seems that we will not have to reopen our budget for the first time in several years. Current projections state that we’re running at about a 58 million dollar surplus and that’s promising news; it means that maybe we’re starting to turn a corner.”
In regards to construction efforts, Senator Rhoads said that the widening of 41-A “remains our number 1 transportation priority” and also noted that the construction of the Regional Sports Complex in Hopkins County is a “great” sign of expansion and development for our area. Though construction on an MSU Campus at Madisonville Community College is currently lacking proper funds due to economic downturns, Senator Rhoads did say that pre-construction preparations are complete and will be utilized once the needed finances become available.
“Our county lags behind the state average in 4-year degrees,” stated Rhoads, “and I believe we can do better. I think that area should remain a high priority in order to provide a wider range of education opportunities.”
During his commentary on statewide healthcare, Representative Gooch placed emphasis on the relationship between state government and new, privately owned healthcare-based businesses such as Passport Health Plan.
“When companies that are private come in and try to do things that government is doing, I think that government sometimes feel threatened,” said Gooch. “I think one of the things Ronald Regan said was that, ‘Once you get a bureaucracy, the main purpose is to protect that bureaucracy,’ and I think that’s what happens. I think there were some people that felt threatened because this [Passport Health Plan] was a pretty successful program. What I know is that we have to do some things to save money on the Medicaid program other than just cutting reimbursement rates.”
As Representative Gooch added, the Healthcare Bill that Congress wants to pass next year will offer few positive improvements.
“I think if you look at the costs,” said Representative Gooch, “most of them are going to be put on most of us that are the ‘average Americans.’ We’re adding about 40 million people to the insurance rows, but we’re not really adding any doctors or providers, so there are some real issues there.”
Among possible solutions, Representative Gooch touched on widening our state’s “risk pool,” which was a point echoed by Representative-elect Ben Waide.
“The complicating factor is that the federal government has not promulgated all the regulations that they are going to require us to follow with this Healthcare Bill,” said Waide. “What they did say, as of July, is that using Obamacare and enforcing the mandates through the Medicare program will bankrupt the state. I don’t want to sound like an ‘alarmist,’ but the State Insurance Commissioner came to us and said, ‘There’s no way in the world we can afford this.’ People talk about $500 to $600 million being added to the state’s Medicaid Bill as a result, but when you roll out the requirements the federal government is putting on the Commonwealth of Kentucky, it becomes clear that it will bankrupt our state. It’s critical that we reverse course, not because it’s not a good idea to help people who don’t have healthcare, but because the bill is just not a good idea.”
As Waide went on to explain, the costs of socialized medicine could become a serious financial burden for average, tax-paying citizens across the nation. For an example, Waide noted that England’s socialized healthcare system is currently the 3rd largest employer on the planet, which, in-turn, is “bankrupting their country.”
“I don’t think that’s the path we want to take,” said Waide. “I’m like Jim [Gooch]—Healthcare Reform is the big, 800-pound gorilla in the room, and if it doesn’t get turned around, it won’t matter what else we do. We need a marketplace that works for healthcare—with lower prices so people can afford it. We need a broader ‘risk pool’ to lower costs. The insurance industry is why, in America, that we have the best healthcare system in the world. We’ve created more access to good healthcare, but the problem is getting insurance companies to keep their promises to everyone.”
In regards to Waide’s points, Senator Rhoads commented that, “The healthcare debate has been going on for decades, and while many may believe that the Healthcare Reform Bill was too comprehensive, it did seek to address some abuses in the healthcare industry hoisted on us by health insurance companies, and I hope when we revisit our Healthcare Reform Act, that we keep those good aspects of it.”
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