Comer addresses health care and rural broadband internet

DARYL K. TABOR / Times Leader

Caldwell County Magistrate Elbert Bennett (left) shares a moment Monday morning with 1st District Congressman James Comer at a legislative breakfast in Eddyville sponsored by Lake Barkley Chamber of Commerce.

James Comer is seeking re-election to a third full term in Congress, but he used an appearance in Eddyville Monday to pitch bi-partisan solutions to some of the biggest problems plaguing his rural district.

Comer, a Republican, was addressing a crowd of about five dozen people representing an array of interests from across far western Kentucky. They had gathered for a Lake Barkley Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast at the Lee S. Jones Convention Center.

"At the end of the day, you have to come together," said the former state representative and Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, expressing frustration at the time wasted on legislation that represents extreme partisan beliefs. "You have to have people who want to govern."

If it comes from the Democrat-controlled House, it tends to lean too far to the left, he said. Likewise, the GOP majority in the Senate regularly offers ideas that swing to the far right.

But Comer said the top concern among constituents across his far-ranging district is not rooted in ideology, because it is hurting both Republicans and Democrats equally.

"We have got to do something about health care," he said. "It is not sustainable."

A sweeping GOP repeal of the Affordable Care Act failed three years ago, but the congressman said there appears to be support on Capitol Hill to tackle two of the biggest individual worries one at a time. They are the cost of medicine and a lack of transparency in medical billing.

Comer used the rising cost of insulin as an example of how out-of-control pricing is ravaging his congressional district, which has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the country.

"We have to do something about companies gouging on drugs people need," he said, warning that there is a delicate balance to implementing regulation in order to continue incentives for private companies to continue expensive research into finding new ways to cure disease.

And with more hospitals, 28, than any other congressional district that does not comprise an entire state, the congressman also fumed at what he calls "surprise billing" from health care providers.

"This is 2020. We should have more transparency to know what things are going to cost," he said of medical billing.

Comer is optimistic that a solution satisfying both sides of the aisle can be found in Congress on these two issues.

Gun control, Asian carp and infrastructure, particularly rural broadband, were also on his agenda at Monday's breakfast.

"We have an infrastructure crisis in America," Comer said. "Rural broadband is one of the biggest complaints I get. If we don't have broadband available, we are not going to be able to keep young people in this area."