Mar 08 2010

Shelby visits Gadsden, discusses health care

By Antrenise Cole

Sen. Richard Shelby answered questions from Etowah County residents and discussed issues facing Alabama and the country at Saturday’s town hall meeting at Gail and Ruby’s Café in Gadsden.

Shelby, a Republican from Tuscaloosa, said he opposes the health care reform bill and thinks the United States already has the best health care system in the world.

“It’s not perfect, and it’s expensive, but it’s the best,” he said.

“If you don’t think it’s the best, Monday morning fly out to Seattle, Wash., and take a tour of the hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices. See how many Canadians are coming in there for health care. Go to Birmingham and see the people who are coming to UAB (Hospital) or Brookwood (Medical Center) or St. Vincent’s Hospital from all over the world.”

Shelby said there are ways to improve the present health care system.

“We could take the health care system as it is today, and not turn it upside down,” he said.

“We could address tort reform. We could address portability state to state. We could address pre-existing problems, because we all got some kind of pre-existing problem. We could address costs, which is important. … We could set up some kind of insurance exchange or something where small businesses and individuals could buy and not have state to state. I think the market could work that way.”

Shelby discussed the Social Security crisis and how younger workers wouldn’t enjoy benefits in retirement.

“A lot of the young people realize that they’re not going to draw Social Security,” he said.

“We never ran Social Security like a pension fund. When you have the government running anything, it’s not run like an ordinary business. It’s a different game. You’re borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, so Paul will vote for you. That’s what they do. The Social Security fund and other entitlements are under funded for the future. That’s part of our debt.”

Medicare and Medicaid are in worse shape than Social Security, Shelby said.

“Medicare and Medicaid are the two fastest-growing items in the budget,” he said.

“If you take Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, I’ve been shown numbers that it would eat up almost 70 percent of all of our incomes each year down the road. But there’s no easy answer to it. If you start fooling with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, people get nervous, and rightly so.”

Before his stop in Gadsden, Shelby had earlier visited Centre Town Hall in Cherokee County. He later visited Fort Payne City Hall in DeKalb County on Saturday before going to Huntsville on Monday.