Saturday, February 10, 2007

Dr Watkins goes to Frankfurt

Watkins suggests stringent smoking legislation

Lets just take some of this article piece by piece.

Dr. David Watkins may be a rookie legislator, but he's not reluctant to speak out on issues.

"I'm the new kid on the block," Watkins (D-Henderson), who was elected state representative last year, told a Henderson Chamber of Commerce audience Monday. "I've got a lot to learn."

But he has firm opinions on a number of topics that could come before the short 2007 General Assembly, which reconvenes today in Frankfort.

You know I'm thinking more Doctors in office might help offset the decades of lawyers running the show and making things way too complicated.

"I will introduce a bill asking people not to smoke in public buildings in Kentucky except taverns and bars," he said.

"I hate smoking," he said, explaining that he has seen the effects of tobacco use during his 42 years in medicine.

"Tobacco is a burden on our health care system," the Henderson family physician said. "It costs Medicaid a half billion dollars annually."

Now come on you can be more direct than that. Its the smokers draining the health care system. You know the ones that come in to ER on a regular basis dragging their little O2 tank behind them reeking of smoke. Spending weeks at a time in the hospital on their Medicaid card using their disability check (because they obviously can't work if they can't breathe) to buy their smokes. I get tickled at people who say they can't afford their inhalers but brought a bag full of Pall Mall's with them. Thats not counting the millions spent on various cancers due to smoking or chewing for that matter.

Watkins also wants to raise the price of cigarettes by 50 cents a pack to discourage youngsters from picking up the addiction. "I want to make cigarettes so damned expensive they can't afford them," he said.

"It will raise $160 million (a year), but that's not the reason I'm introducing it," Watkins said, though he added that he would want the proceeds to be used for schools.

Okay I can deal with idea but how about we expand that to more than a pack of smokes? Doc when you get time stop Thorntons and check out what they offer. Not only do we have hundreds of choices for cigarettes but flavored cigars and chewing tobacco. You can get a can of Skoal in Berry and Apple flavor then get a package of cigars in watermelon flavor. Lets not foget about all those oral cancers draining the healthcare system.

But I am not quite following what you want the money to do in the school systems. After all the schools are not the thriftiest bunch around you know. Probably might be better to let the Health Dept handle that as then you might have more direct control.

Watkins also spoke out in favor of requiring middle school girls to receive a new immunization for human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted virus that is responsible for most cases of cervical cancer.

Some critics have suggested that receiving the Gardasil vaccine, which prevents infections from four strains of the virus, might encourage girls to become sexually active. Watkins dismissed that as "tremendous ignorance."

"Any time we can prevent anybody from getting cancer, why not?" he said.

"It's not for promiscuity. It's for responsibility," Watkins said.

Absolutley! Teenagers are not worried about cancer when they are 40 years old only about the here and now. As I have read 80% of the sexually active public have been exposed to HPV already so we need to get this one rolling ASAP. Maybe in the tv ads they should mention HPV can cause penile cancer. That should give those crotchety old farts who are against it nightmares.

On another medical matter, Watkins acknowledged that the Medicare Part D prescription medicine program "is confusing. Our federal people did a poor, poor job. It confuses our older people.

"But it does help people if they read the literature and get the right program."

Watkins said the federal government should be empowered to negotiate prescription prices it pays under Medicare. "When I submit a bill to Medicare, they fix my prices," he said. "There should be a price fix for medications. The cost of medicine has gotten out of hand. It's ridiculous."

Big pharm is an easy target for many. Yes my meds are high and getting higher but I cannot agree with this. Look at the R&D these guys are doing. If you price fix meds then when they spend $800 million for a new drug only to have to pull it off the market is the Federal Govt going to bail them out? I don't think so (obviously the air line industry has a much better lobby) that leaves the companies eating huge losses and either scaling back R&D or closing down.

Watkins also spoke out in favoring of raising the state's minimum wage and applying it to restaurant workers.

"I think employers need to raise the rates to pay girls a decent wage, or men a decent wage," he said. "There is a projection that we will lose a few jobs, but I doubt it."

Watkins would like incentives provided to employers to hire blind workers and the physically disabled.

But he said employers should take greater care to not hire illegal immigrants. "I think the reason we have illegal immigrants is there are too many lazy Americans," he said.

You were on such a roll until then. Now if you are proposing that restaurant workers be included I can deal with that. However I could see the restaurants going after a portion of the tips to make up for that. Not sure what the waitresses really want there.

Minimum wage is a very political issue though and I don't think enough thought has been put into it by those pushing it. Perhaps the good Doctor should consult University of Kentucky associate professor of economics Aaron Yelowitz who has done a great deal of research.

The illegal alien thing I have to say made me almost laugh out of my chair. I don't think your fellow lawmakers are ready for that kind of honesty up there. But I would also tend to agree with you. Obviously you have visited the Tyson plant as well.

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