Cassidy offers health-care ideas in Ascension town-hall meeting

Michael Tortorich
Congressman Bill Cassidy meets with a group of people following a town-hall meeting at Dutchtown High School Monday evening.

GEISMAR – U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) offered his ideas for reforming the nation’s health-care system Monday evening to a standing-room-only crowd at Dutchtown High School.

The physician from Baton Rouge, who represents the sixth congressional district, spoke about health-care issues and reform prior to taking questions from the crowd of some 200 people.

The audience crowded into the upstairs media center of the school.

The Ascension Parish visit was his second town-hall meeting in the Baton Rouge area. Cassidy has planned other stops within his district.

According to recent news reports from across the nation, some national representatives have been met with protests and even some hostility during similarly styled meetings, including shouting and shoving, but Cassidy seemed to be welcomed by mainly like-minded individuals. His ideas for reform frequently were met with applause.

A practicing physician who has worked at LSU’s Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge for some 20 years, he said “somebody is always paying” when health services are provided.

He stressed healthy lifestyles through proper diet and exercise as a goal, along with quitting smoking.

Cassidy said a healthier population would lower insurance premiums, and then more people would be able to afford coverage.

He also addressed problems with administrative overhead that adds to costs.

Cassidy pointed to current government programs Medicare and Medicaid, which he said has strained both the federal government and state governments.

“In my mind, you don’t put in a third to rescue the two,” Cassidy said, prompting a round of applause from the crowd.

“Someone will pay for it on the back end,” he concluded.

Cassidy said by using deficit spending, when money runs out, quality suffers.

As an example, he compared state-run Earl K. Long Medical Center to privately-run Woman’s Hospital. Both opened in 1968 and are located in Baton Rouge. He said every budget cut to the state-run facility took a toll.

“You can see which one is maintained,” he said.

Cassidy touted a health savings account as a way to save money, instead of what he called “a big new government bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.”

He said the accounts would allow consumers to decide how health-care money should be spent.

Such accounts allow people to roll over money that would have gone to insurance premiums.

Current plans working through Congress would aim to provide insurance for the estimated 46 million people who are without coverage.

Estimates put the cost of the plans into the billions and topping $1 trillion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

After speaking, Cassidy took questions from the audience. Many expressed skepticism and concern for the current proposals being discussed nationally.

In the question and answer session, Cassidy said consumers should be able to comparison shop for health care. He said consumers currently can only judge a provider by ratings and if they have a “pretty office or pretty secretary.”

He said such reform would bring down costs.

Another topic Cassidy spoke about was cap and trade, which he said would be “terrible for Louisiana.”

He said such a policy would result in unemployment in various sectors of the local economy.

Cassidy said his father moved to Baton Rouge in 1957 and sold insurance to many people who worked for companies like Exxon Mobil.

He said the petrochemical industry has become an enemy for some, but maintained that the companies provide jobs with benefits. He further said the industries spur growth in other businesses.

Congressman Bill Cassidy speaks to the crowd at Dutchtown High School Monday.