Rand Paul wants to cool down the rhetoric

By Joshua Roberts | The Paducah Sun

Sen. Rand Paul, appearing Thursday afternoon in Paducah, called for ratcheting down the rhetoric amid escalating threats of military action between the U.S. and North Korea.

A short time later, President Donald Trump followed his “fire and fury” comment from earlier in the week with a new warning to North Korea of “trouble like few nations have ever been in trouble.”

But Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, said war between the nations would be “devastating on the Korean Peninsula,” putting the Korean War “to shame.” He hopes war is averted.

“Even with conventional weapons a million people could die in two weeks, in South Korea probably,” said Paul during a stop at Midwest Aviation at Barkley Airport. “I think we need to realize the things we say about nuclear weapons should not be said frivolously.”

North Korean leaders need to understand, he said — “and I think they do, I think most countries know — if they attack South Korea or us, the consequences will be mind-numbing,” Paul said. “It will be the end of North Korea. They need to know that. That’s a deterrence.”

And, he added, “We don’t want to goad them into anything. … When people are not completely rational, you don’t want to stoke their irrationality.”

File | Photo by Mary Alford/The News-Enterprise

During his visit, which lasted about 45 minutes, Paul also talked to the media and a small crowd about other issues including health care and America’s growing crisis with opioids.

Concerning painkillers, the senator said there is no “easy answer.”

“More people are dying from opioid overdoses than are dying from car accidents,” he said.

“We do have to figure it out. … I think physicians and health care need to acknowledge they may have been part of the problem, and they still may be part of the problem.”

Paul cited a small, poor county in Kentucky with a few thousand residents. There, he said, three million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone had been prescribed.

“Those are legal doses for a couple of thousand people,” Paul said. “Something is wrong with that. … Some in the medical community admit that part of it is we are overprescribing.”

Paul, who broke from party ranks to vote against the GOP’s proposed health care overhaul, advocates stabilizing the individual insurance market by broadening group purchasing. He calls it “collective bargaining for the consumer.”

For example, he proposed allowing the roughly 15 million employees in the fast-food industry, many of whom aren’t covered, to buy group insurance through the National Restaurant Association.

“My plan has always been to let people get out of the individual market, let them join associations,” he said. “It could be the National Restaurant Association, National Retail Association, it could be a variety of things.”

“I even mentioned Costco. There are 85 million people who belong to Costco — why not let them buy their insurance through Costco?

“There could be all kinds of solutions to level the equation when people are making a negotiation for their insurance. All the power now is with the insurance companies. … Ask doctors. Ask nurses. Nobody has leverage. The insurer has all the power.”

Before the Affordable Care Act, Paul said insurance companies made $6 billion per year in profit. After Obamacare, profits swelled to $15 billion per year, he said.

“And they come to us with their hands outstretched, billionaire beseechers, where they want us to set up a system where they make even more money,” Paul said.

The Republican leadership’s plan would have provided a $280 billion “bailout” to insurance companies to offset “adverse selection” — an insurance market “top heavy” with the sick and elderly, he said.

“I’m just absolutely against doing that,” Paul said.

Giving associations group purchasing power would create leverage, he added, and bring competition back to many counties, many of which are down to one insurer, or in some cases, none at all.

Paul laid out his vision for healing the health care system.

“The bottom line is if we want to fix health care, we have to have sufficient confidence in what made us a great country,” he said. “What made us a great country was basically we largely left you alone. The federal government didn’t get involved in your business.”