Sen. McConnell speaks to Gatton students about health care, education

Gatton Academy students asked Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for his opinion of the future of the health care industry in America when he visited WKU on Tuesday afternoon.

McConnell said math and science fields, including health care-which is one-sixth of the U.S. economy-are critical to American competition in the global economy.

“America has an enormous deficiency in math and science,” he said.

Claci Ayers, a 17-year-old academy senior from Bowling Green, asked McConnell how the recent health care legislation will affect the jobs in the field in the future.

McConnell told Ayers he did not support the bill, which he called the “worst piece of legislation in the 25 years I’ve been in the Senate.”

McConnell also said he was worried the quality of health care provided would decrease because of “overutilization” of medical services.

By the time students get to medical school, they should have a better idea of what the industry will look like, he said.

After the meeting, Ayers said she wanted to ask McConnell about the legislation because she plans on going into pediatrics in the future.

Ayers said that although she thinks it could be a risky career move to go into health care, people will always need health care, and while some people may be deterred from entering the field, she’s not.

David Sekora, a 15-year-old academy junior from Franklin, asked McConnell if everyone should be provided health care.

McConnell said the downside of free health care is that everyone uses it, which decreases quality. He also added it is better to have people insured than uninsured.

After the meeting, Sekora said he was unsatisfied with McConnell’s answer.

McConnell seemed to contradict himself by saying everyone needed to have health care, but that it was bad for the industry if everyone had insurance, Sekora said.

Sekora said he has not determined what career path he wants to follow, but he is considering the health care industry because there is a practical need for doctors.

The way the health care reform legislation affects the industry will also affect his decision, he said.

Students were also curious about any possible programs to help other gifted students who may not attend the academy.

McConnell said although he was not an expert on education, he believed deficiencies in math and science education were not just a Kentucky problem, and the education system needs to do more to produce graduates who can fill jobs in math and science fields.

President Gary Ransdell said WKU saw a “void” in math and science education and decided to approach the Kentucky General Assembly about creating a math and science academy at WKU.

“We recognized our public schools weren’t providing what our gifted students needed,” Ransdell said.

WKU is helping public high schools reshape their curriculum so students are better prepared for college and less time is spent on remedial education, he said.