PRESTONSBURG – Senator Dr. Rand Paul is doing a sweep across Eastern Kentucky holding a series of townhall meetings, a format that brings the government directly to the people. Paul spoke to constituents of Floyd County and neighboring communities at Highlands Regional Medical Center on Tuesday. The focus of the meeting was directed toward the healthcare industry and how Obamacare has impacted the nation, the state, and our local economy.
It was discussed at the meeting that a rural hospital typically generates 75 percent of their funds from Medicaid or Medicare.
“The average working individual over the course of their entire career will pay roughly $75,000 to the Medicare taxes withheld from their pay,” said Paul. “That same individual over the course of their life will typically receive an average of $350,000 in Medicare benefits. The question remains, how can we generate enough money to support Medicaid and Medicare.”
Several options were discussed on possible fixes that would help a portion of the problem. One option was to gradually increase the age of eligibility for Medicare to age 70. If this is part of the solution, it would need to be gradually increased over years. To improve healthcare we also need a robust economy, which having government officials state they will personally put all coal mines out of business has been devastating to the economy of Eastern Kentucky.
“The goal of government is to preserve jobs, not to abolish them,” said Paul.
Recently in Ashland CSX lost over 100 jobs. AK Steel has lost over 600 jobs in the Ashland area due to the decrease of coal production in Eastern Kentucky.
“Currently approximately three coal operations are working in Floyd County,” said Floyd County Judge-Executive Ben Hale. “One of the operations is a prep plant that is not mining coal, but getting coal from a neighboring county. When the economy was good, several independent coal operations existed throughout Eastern Kentucky and Floyd County. Those independent coal operators are no longer producing coal. The cost to extract the coal in Eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia is to high compare to coal mined in others states such as Illinois. The market conditions are not feasible at this time for local coal operators to mine their coal and have a place to sell that coal at a profit.”
What will happen to the coal industry in Eastern Kentucky is still a question for government officials. Paul has proposed a plan called the Economic Freedom Zone Bill, which will address some of the economic difficulties of areas with economic distress such as Floyd County. Basically if approved, the plan will reduce the taxes of corporations from their current 35 percent to 5 percent and personal taxes from their current 40 percent to 5 percent. This simple plan will allow individuals to keep more of their money, which allows them to spend that money at local stores boosting the local economy.
Andrea Saddler is a reporter for the Floyd County Times. She can be reached at (606) 794-0290.