Healthcare dominates Vitter town hall in Convent

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 18, 2009


CONVENT — If the fire chief had been present, there might have been a problem with the size of the crowd packed in to the Council Chambers at St. James Parish Courthouse for a Monday morning Town Hall meeting with Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).

The crowd arrived early, with more than 40 seated just moments after they were allowed to access the room. By the time Vitter arrived, there were people lining three walls, spilling out into the hallway and filling the seats usually occupied by members of the parish council.

One subject, healthcare reform, dominated the hour-long session that featured about 20 questions from the audience. There was the occasional subject that strayed away from the nation’s most hotly debated topic, but it didn’t take long to get back to the topic of the day.

“I certainly think there are important things that need to be changed in the delivery system of healthcare, but let’s fix those things. There’s no need to throw the baby out with the bath water,” Vitter told the crowd.

He said he was, “…unalterably opposed to the Obama plan for three reasons: One, because (I feel) it will grow into government-run healthcare … and I think in a few years, it will be the only system. Two, the cost. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says the cost will be between $2.2 and $2.4 trillion over a 10-year period … that bends the (price) curve up, not down. Third, I think rationing comes with No. 1 and No. 2.”

Vitter cited the British healthcare system, which has a board that reviews cases and determines if someone is approved for a medical procedure or not.

“With costs such as the ones we are talking about, that will happen,” he said.

After his quick opening on healthcare, Vitter discussed Cap and Trade, which he termed “cap and tax.”

“I think it will devastate our economy. I think it will be the biggest tax in history and it will hit all of us, but it will hit us in Louisiana especially hard.”

Vitter said he had talked with officials of Charlotte-based Nucor Steel, who Gov. Bobby Jindal recently disclosed had purchased 12,000 acres in St. James.

“They are on hold,” Vitter said. “They are waiting to see what Congress is going to do with Cap and Trade. If Congress passes it, they’re going out of the country.”

But when the floor was opened to questions, which had been submitted prior to Vitter’s arrival, the move to healthcare was swift and certain.

Discussion of exactly how many people are uninsured was first up, with the high percentage of illegal aliens and the high percentage of young, affluent adults who are more willing to go to the emergency room than buy insurance.

But one of the aspects of the Obama proposal — mandated insurance — is one of the most dangerous, Vitter said. He noted that under the plan, a business has the option of providing insurance or paying $750 per year per employee for coverage.

“How many of you can get health insurance for $750 a year?” he asked. “That’s going to cause businesses to drop coverage, because studies indicate the average cost to provide coverage to an employee is about $6,500. Are you going to spend $6,500 or $750?”

Vitter pointed out that while spending under the administration of President George W. Bush was very loose, that in the first six months in office, President Obama, “has racked up more debt than all of his predecessors combined. This year, there’s $1.8 trillion in new debt and, in the 10-year budget he got passed to allow for low-term planning, that number triples.”

Vitter encouraged people to continue to contact their congressmen during the August break and pointed out that Rep. Charlie Melancon voted along party lines to allow members of Congress to keep their current coverage, rather than being required to sign up for the same plan that Congress ultimately approves.

“My goal,” Vitter said, “was to stop Congress from voting on healthcare or Cap and Trade before the August break. They need to look their constituents in the eye and tell them why.

“If they (Congress) feel the crowds are unruly, maybe they need to listen to the people and back off some. I think that’s why this has all slowed down, but you have to keep it up. You have to keep up the pressure on them.