SLCC students ask U.S. Sen. Cassidy about health-care costs, high-speed internet – Daily Advertiser

February 17, 2020




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U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy talked Monday about rising health-care costs, the need for broadband internet in rural Louisiana and reducing disease with lifestyle changes during a visit with health sciences students at South Louisiana Community College.

Cassidy, a gastroenterologist from north Louisiana, toured SLCC’s Health and Sciences Building, which features a virtual hospital with life-like mannequins that allow students to get hands-on experience in a training environment.

“I walked in thinking I was going to a community college, and I got the whole vibe of a hospital,” he said.

The building was designed with wider elevators and halls to allow students to move hospital beds across floors. Cassidy mentioned the flooring and wall colors were akin to the hospital setting.

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He was impressed by the sophistation of the models students can access at SLCC and encouraged by the level of education for the next generation of health professionals, he said.

“I’m just so aware these are the young people who will take care of me in my old age,” Cassidy said.

He addressed about 30 of those young people, nursing students in a third-floor classroom Monday. One asked what he and his peers in Congress can do about the rising costs of health-care premiums.

He pointed to the day’s lesson projected on a screen in their classroom. It showed a list of risk factors for coronary artery disease, including cigarette smoking, obesity and diabetes. 

By encouraging lifestyle changes — quitting smoking, exercising and losing weight — some of those factors are eliminated, he said.

“Then we lower health-care costs not by cutting rates but by decreasing the burden of illness,” Cassidy said. “It’s lifestyle changes and public health.”

Branden Dautreuil, a student from St. Martin Parish, asked the senator about a recently announced federal investment of $15.5 million that will put high-speed broadband infrastructure in Iberville, Pointe Coupee and St. Landry parishes. 

Dautreuil said he lives close to the St. Landry Parish line but in a parish that is still without access to that kind of infrastructure.

While the money comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, decisions about where it is spent are made at the state level, Cassidy said.

“We’re just trying to get the money to the state,” Cassidy said. “Every parish should have broadband. The farmers need it. The students need it. Health care needs it.”

Making high-speed internet more available spreads the costs over many and makes it more affordable, while also allowing for innovation like telemedicine, or “the future of health-care,” he said.

It also is a part of making Louisiana or Lafayette the kind of place people want to stay.

“Our community is competing with other states,” Cassidy said. “We want to create a community where you decide to stay here. Part of that is just making it prosperous.”

He wants input on how to make that happen.

“What can we do to make this a community where you want to stay?” he asked. “You’ve got to participate. Tell me what’s important to you. I can’t read your mind.”

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