Health care crisis looming
Eagle County commissioner
Over the last two years, five major Eagle County reports have zeroed in on issues and solutions for elected officials to implement. All of these have one underlying theme to me ” that working class families are being squeezed and without continued and effective action, our economy will suffer.
Some of the pressure is coming from health care expenses. For example, it costs an average family of four more than $1,200 dollars for insurance premiums. Also, it is very difficult for small businesses with less than 50 employees to afford health insurance as a benefit, which results in many employed workers being uninsured. Small businesses are more common in rural areas such as Eagle County.
Alarmingly, more than 14,000 of our 54,000 residents are uninsured ” that is nearly one in four of us. Of these individuals, 47 percent do not meet the federal definition of poor, and in fact, 37 percent of Eagle County’s uninsured households make more than $50,000 per year.
When individuals don’t have adequate health insurance, they put off seeing a medical professional until their condition worsens, often resulting in a more expensive treatment, at a more advanced stage of the illness. This leads to more time off from work. A lack of access to affordable health care undermines our working middle class and interferes with a viable, healthy workforce.
Eagle County, in cooperation with the Vail Valley Medical Center, is in the process of applying for a special government designation that would make funding available for a community health center. A community health center would serve those without adequate health insurance by charging for services based on an individual’s ability to pay. It would also address the physician shortage issue by providing repayment incentives to attract newly licensed physicians. In addition, community health centers accept Medicaid and Medicare, which is cost-prohibitive to many medical providers in the valley.
We all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and these nonprofit clinics provide comprehensive services that include preventive care, along with sick care.
Community health centers are well-known as the best method to assure that underserved communities have a medical home, especially children. Partnerships like this one will continue to advocate and assure that our community can access quality health care needed for all.