Cassidy hosts town hall

Published 7:00 am Friday, June 3, 2016

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., stopped by Bogalusa on Wednesday to meet with constituents and give a brief update on legislation he’s working on in Washington, D.C.

Cassidy’s message was positive, and he is hopeful he can get some legislation passed that he believes will help law enforcement and the mentally ill. Cassidy, who is a physician, said that too often law enforcement are the ones who have to deal with the mentally ill because they pose a danger to themselves or others when they cannot get access to treatment.

Cassidy said he’s been working with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., on a bill that should help with that issue. The pair introduced the bill last year, and it is called the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015.

Cassidy said it’s important to work with Democrats on the issue of the mentally ill. “The only way a bill like this is going to pass is if Democrats and Republicans get together and come up with a bill that is acceptable to the Senate and the Congress and that the president will sign,” Cassidy said.

The bill is expected to add more caregivers and beds to mental health facilities, and to make it easier for doctors to share information about mentally ill patients to their care providers. In addition, Cassidy said he wants to treat mental health issues and addictions like diseases instead of criminal issues.

Cassidy said he’s also working on an alternative to the Affordable Care Act that he calls “The World’s Greatest Health Care Plan.” Cassidy said he initially proposed it as an alternative, but it got ignored until he changed the name to something more colorful.

Cassidy submitted that new bill two weeks ago, and Cassidy said, under the new name, the proposal has gotten more press coverage.

Cassidy said his plan would take the money that’s currently collected for health care and give each person an allotted amount that he or she could only use for health care costs.

“So, for example, if you’re 18, it’d be $800,” he said. “If you’re 58, it would be a lot more … And that person could do whatever they wished with it. They could pool it with their spouse and buy a policy or give it to an employer so their employer could match it.”

The bill would eliminate mandates, though it would not repeal the Affordable Care Act, according to The Atlantic. The magazine interviewed U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who sponsored the bill in the House, and Sessions has called the bill a compromise to the president’s health care law. According to Sessions, the World’s Greatest Health Care Plan would allow Americans to keep their insurance through work, keep their insurance through the ACA exchanges or use vouchers provided by the new law.

On Wednesday, Cassidy said he believes one of the reasons plans under the ACA exchanges are expensive is because people are being forced to buy insurance that covers more than they need.

“(The Affordable Care Act) gives power to the folks in Washington to tell us we have to buy something,” said Cassidy. “And if you have to buy something, then you pay more for it.”

Cassidy added that he would like to get federal support for dyslexia. Cassidy’s wife runs a charter school for dyslexic children in Baton Rouge, and the senator said there are three predictors for prison: illiteracy, the lack of a father figure and drug use.

After that, Cassidy took some questions from the audience. The first citizen asked who he was supporting for president.

“Who am I supporting for president? Oh, my gosh. This is a yuge decision, a

yuge decision,” he said, mimicking Donald Trump’s accent, before adding that he is supporting Trump.

Cassidy praised Trump’s business acumen and understanding of banking regulations, though at least one of the senator’s facts may be questionable.

“I am supporting Mr. Trump and I’ll say why. Last year was the first year more small businesses went out of business than started,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy didn’t elaborate on what he considers a “small” business. According to Politifact, a nonpartisan fact-checking source, more businesses were closing than opening from 2009 to 2011, but from 2011 to 2013, there have been more firms opening than closing, although the margin is slim. The Census Bureau provides these numbers.

Cassidy blamed the closures on strict banking regulations, and he said Trump would ease those regulations and as a consequence more money would be loaned, spurring growth.

Cassidy also said he believes Trump should be the one to pick the next Supreme Court nominee instead of Hillary Clinton, and he believes Trump has a better understanding of job creation.

Cassidy answered a few more questions about Social Security, but wrapped up the meeting after about an hour. He said he was happy to see the crowd, and he was happy to meet people face to face.

“The only way we can truly represent is if we know what you’re thinking,” he said. “We have telephone town halls, but there’s no way to replace meeting face to face.”