Monday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D) was in Hamilton in Marion County for a town hall. The meeting was in the Old City Hall. Sixty people were in attendance.
Jones said that the two most difficult things about being in the Senate is the schedule. The second is how difficult it has been to get bills to the floor of the Senate. “It was not that way when I was an aide to Senator Heflin.”
Hamilton Mayor Bob Page said that the City of Hamilton has been in the 6,500 to 6,800 in population for fifteen years, yet the Census projection is that we are going to lose 11 percent of our population in the next decade.
“We are not attracting people like our sister states in Georgia and South Carolina,” Jones said. “What I worry about is Birmingham and the suburbs around Birmingham are growing. Huntsville is growing like gang busters. Mobile is growing. We are really losing in the rural counties.”
“Healthcare is a driving issue in the state and a driving issue for rural counties,” Jones said. “Since 2011, 6 I think now 7 rural hospitals have closed. I really believe that without a good healthcare system you can’t expect people to stay here.”
“21 percent of the people living in Marion County are over 65,” Jones said. “That is higher than the state avg of 15 percent.” The percent of the population that are children is lower than the state average. If that continues then sooner of later the population is going to drop.
“Hospitals and rural healthcare is really important,” Jones said. Jones showed slides showing how the number of counties who do not have an OBGYN have increased dramatically.
Jones praised the recent change by the Trump Administration in how Medicare reimbursements are paid. The Medicare Wage Index meant that Alabama hospitals were reimbursed at a lower rate than in other states. The change means that go into effect on January 1 mean that now Alabama hospitals will be compensated at a rate more comparable to the rest of the nation.
“Frankly I think we ought to expand Medicaid.” Jones said. Jones said that he and Senator Warner of Virginia have introduced legislation to allow states like Alabama that did not expand Medicaid to get the federal government to pay the costs for the first three years.
“300 thousand people would get healthcare that don’t now,” Jones said of Medicaid expansion.
“Healthcare drives the economy especially in rural areas,” Jones said. “Healthcare helps with mental health and the drug problem.”
“If you can get the healthcare right, education can follow and businesses will follow,” Jones said.
Jones said that to lure business “You have to have a very welcoming place.” Businesses today have a very diverse workforce.
“We can reverse those trends, but it comes back to healthcare,” Jones said. You have got great law enforcement here. You have great support.” You have Bevil State here.
Jones said that businesses need to partner with the high schools to develop their workforces.
“We are going to have to have businesses reaching into the school system to train and say come work with us,” Jones said.
Jones said, “Being your U.S. Senator is the greatest honor of my life.”
Jones said that the Senate will be recessed until after Labor Day.
He will be touring the United Launch Alliance plant in Decatur and will be at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville on Wednesday. On Thursday, Jones and his wife will join Senator Richard Shelby and his wife and another Senator of two in Washington to leave for a trip.