Both sides speak out on health care in Vail Valley |

Both sides speak out on health care in Vail Valley

Sarah Mausolf
Vail CO, Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyBlanca Munoz holds signs to show support for President Barack Obama's health care reform plan before the Vail Valley town hall meeting Friday at Berry Creek Middle School in Edwards.

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – As people poured into Berry Creek Middle School in Colorado’s Vail Valley on Friday morning, Marlene Krell held up a sign.

“I am not being paid to be here; I am not a Nazi,” the hand-written poster read. “I wear Birkenstocks, NOT Brooks Brothers.”

Krell, 63, doesn’t like President Barack Obama’s health care reform plan. And she really doesn’t like how some people are comparing opponents of it to Nazis.

“It’s being rushed through the Congress and the Senators – most of them haven’t even read it,” the part-time Beaver Creek resident said. “I do believe it will lead to socialism if it’s passed.”

Health care was a hot topic at town meeting in Edwards on Friday. More than 300 people gathered at Berry Creek Middle School for a question-answer session with Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet. The senator touted Obama’s health care plan, saying it will help the 47 million people in America who are uninsured.

Things got pretty heated, with the crowd erupting into applause at times. “Sit Down!” one man in the audience yelled to another with opposing views. “You sit down pal!” the other man snapped back.

Cheers and boos broke out when an Eagle woman sitting in the front row blasted the health care reform plan. “This is nothing more than a grab for control of our lives,” the woman yelled.

After the meeting, about 20 supporters of the health care plan picketed in the parking lot. They held up signs with slogans like “I heart Obama” and “I refuse to die for Insurance profits!”

Colorado Springs resident Kjersten Forseth, 35, said a hospital slapped her with a $3,500 bill for one emergency room visit even though she had health insurance. Now she has a five-year loan to pay off, and she wants the government to pass a more affordable health care option.

“I was trying to do the right thing by having health insurance and buying into it but it turns out I was paying for nothing,” she said. “The coverage wasn’t there when I needed it.”

Bennet said cutting health care costs is a key to curbing the national deficit.

The plan will help working families and small businesses that are facing double digit hikes each year for the cost of health care, he said.

“In this country, median family income has actually declined by $300 over the last decade while the cost of health care has risen by more than 80 percent,” he said.

Bennet fielded a variety of questions from the crowd, mostly on health insurance reform. Dr. Barry Mankowitz, a retired surgeon, wanted to know why the bill doesn’t include tort reform.

The part-time Beaver Creek resident asked what will happen if a fixed number of doctors receive a flood of patients who get health insurance from the new law. He was concerned about an influx of patients who are illegal immigrants.

Bennet said there are 12 million undocumented people in the country, and the bill doesn’t talk about insuring them.

“It’s just not going to be part of what happens here,” he said.

He said the government should provide incentives to doctors who choose to practice primary care, especially in rural areas.

Several people who went to the meeting were worried about Medicare.

“Back in Florida, I have an assisted living facility and I’m very concerned about the residents we care for, their Medicare benefits, if they’re going to change at all,” Eagle-Vail resident Larry Sherberg said before the meeting. “.I really do not believe in the death squads they’re talking about but the people who have dementia and Alzheimer’s, I am concerned about their long-term care.”

Answering someone else’s question, Bennet said he’s not for deep cuts to the care people get through Medicare. Instead he wants to save money by boosting preventative care so patients don’t develop, or can better manage, costly chronic conditions.

Between 300 and 400 people attended the event, officials estimated. Gypsum resident Tom Harned, 66, said he was glad to see so many people turn out.

“This is a defining moment in our history,” he said. “If our government goes in the wrong direction, it could be very devastating to our country.”

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