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U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Bowling Green) visited several sites in Shelbyville Friday, and he was met by robust audiences who wanted him to focus on two hot-button topics: health-care reform and environmental issues.
Everywhere he went – the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, Jewish Hospital Shelbyville and a public forum at the Shelby County Farm Bureau – hundreds of community leaders and citizens of all political affiliations grilled him about those topics of prime concern.
Guthrie, who is a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, voted against a health-care reform proposal in committee, he admitted that the system "needs to be fixed."
"Did you know that it is estimated that 47 million Americans have no health-care coverage?" he asked audiences at each stop.
Guthrie said that in order to reform health care, private insurance also needs to undergo change. "We need insurance reform, because that reflects health-care costs," he said.
He said he thinks insurance companies should start to cover pre-existing medical conditions and to pool their resources in order to better absorb expenses.
His position especially intrigued the group at JSH, an event also attended by Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty and Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger.
Holly Husband, public relations coordinator for the hospital, told Guthrie she thought more needed to be done to get information about health care options to the public. She added that she was pleased with President Obama's efforts in that area.
"The president has done a masterful job at getting grass-roots people involved," she said.
Guthrie agreed that getting more people involved in health-care issues is very important in establishing a flow of information to people concerning health care.
"It's vital to keep patients informed," he said.
Against ‘cap and trade’
But not all of the talk was about health care. Guthrie said he was opposed to the much-discussed and so-called “Cap And Trade Bill” for clean energy because he said the bill would "be bad for the country."
The bill, officially called the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, was passed by the House on June 26 by a vote of 219-212 and has moved to the Senate.
This bill proposes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and global warming by creating a system of pollution permits that energy companies must buy before releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
"This makes coal and oil scarce because it puts a cap on how much you can use," Guthrie said. "It makes it so gas and energy prices will go up."
He added that what the bill would do is to make natural resources "artificially scarce" in order to drive up their cost and to encourage the development of alternative energy sources.
Guthrie said that although he agrees that alternative sources, such as solar energy, must eventually be developed on a wider scale, those sources are not yet readily available.
"In Kentucky, 87 percent of the energy we use comes from coal," he said. "Yes, we do need to conserve our resources, but I don't think we'll do it with this bill."
Questions from audience
The questions Guthrie heard during his appearances tended to align with the type of audience.
Chamber members asked quite a few questions about financial-aid options for college tuitions because they are concerned about the rising costs of putting their children through school.
Officials at Jewish Hospital Shelbyville asked mostly about health-care reform.
And citizens who attended the public forum at Shelby County Farm Bureau, which included many retirees, were worried about how health-care reform proposals, if passed, would affect their medical coverage and the price of their premiums. They also expressed concern with the state of the economy, including the job market.
One woman, Martha Ferry of Shelbyville, said she was extremely frustrated because she couldn't find a job.
"I have sent out 72 resumes and have had four interviews, but still no job," she told Guthrie.
"You talk about what a family of four with an income of seventy-five-thousand dollars a year would have to pay for medical insurance. Well, most of us here don't make that kind of money," she said. "I'm asking you as my representative for all you politicians to stop fighting and bickering and get together and help us."