Sen. Vitter fields concerns in St. John

Published 11:45 pm Friday, August 22, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE — Jo Jo Dantone-DeBarbieris wants answers from Washington about pending legislation that could impact her job.

The LaPlace resident supports a bill that would coordinate all existing diabetes programs to prevent overlap of services, as well as another that would allow the Congressional Budget Office to weigh out the costs of a medical bill for 30 years instead of the current five-year standard.

Dantone-DeBarbieris brought those concerns personally to U.S. Senator David Vitter during a Wednesday town hall meeting in LaPlace.

Dantone-DeBarbieris said if the CBO could score out a bill’s cost for 30 years instead of just five when weighing the cost versus the possible benefits of program, more preventative health programs could get backing.

She said the passage of both bills are important for Louisiana residents, a sentiment Vitter echoed. He told her if the bills, now in the House, make it to the Senate, he will research them carefully.

Dantone-DeBarbieris, a registered dietitian, said Wednesday’s meeting was the third of Vitter’s town halls she has attended.

“I like to ask plenty of questions,” she said with a laugh.

Approximately 25 people attended the meeting to get information from and ask questions of Vitter.

“I was very pleased with the outcome of the program and the answers he gave me,” Dantone-DeBarbieris said. “He did a really great job and allowed everyone to have a voice and everyone to speak.”

Vitter opened the meeting with his thoughts on two of the country’s recent hot button talking points — illegal immigration and the Affordable Care Act.

Vitter called illegal immigration a “crisis” for America.

“I don’t use that word lightly,” Vitter said, adding the only solution he sees to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the U.S. is to “deport them safely and properly back to their home countries.”

Vitter said he thought countries in which illegal immigrants were leaving should also be part of the solution, as should Secretary of State John Kerry, whose role makes him the President Barack Obama’s chief foreign affairs adviser.

Vitter said Obamacare, in its current application, is causing more problems than it’s solving. He would like to see it repealed in favor of health care reforms that would allow citizens to keep the policies they liked before Obamacare’s implementation.

Vitter said health insurance reforms should take place to make insurance cheaper for uninsured Americans. Two ideas he had to accomplish that goal include allowing free-market insurance sales across state lines and making it possible for small businesses to participate in larger industry health insurance co-ops.

For example, if a small restaurant couldn’t offer health insurance to employees, Vitter said, maybe the Louisiana Restaurant Association could since it represents thousands of workers versus just a handful.

Many meeting attendees, including Parish President Natalie Robottom, thanked Vitter for hosting the meeting. She said she looks forward to continuing to work with him on flood insurance and levee protection measures for parish residents.

One attendee asked Vitter what he could do about helping the parish secure funding to get St. John Parish’s ferry operational. Vitter said the matter is an issue of state and not federal money, but if he were elected governor next year, it would be a priority of his office.