Health care divides Vail Valley, too |

Health care divides Vail Valley, too

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado
A hospital employee pushes a wheelchair at the emergency room at Jamaica Hospital in New York, Monday, March 22, 2010. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

VAIL, Colorado – Eagle-Vail resident Mary Jane Sloat said she was happy to see the health care bill pass Sunday night.

“I think it’s historic,” she said. “I’m sure it will have to be tweaked over the years but it’s a framework to move forward.”

Although Sloat herself has health insurance, she can’t bear the thought of other people who can’t get it.

“I think it’s a moral imperative that we have health care for everyone in this richest of countries,” the 66-year-old Democrat said. “It’s horrible to think people aren’t getting care, or something as simple as medicine.”

With president Barack Obama poised to sign his massive health insurance overhaul today, some locals were rejoicing over the change while others lamented it.

Local chef Julian Smith, 29, said he sees the bill as a move toward socialism.

“I have health insurance that I trust,” the West Vail resident said. “I don’t need to involve the corrupt government in my health. I don’t think it’s appropriate at all. There places where the government belongs. This isn’t one of them.”

Dr. Marc Peck, a family physician with Colorado Mountain Medical in Vail, said the bill lacks a key component.

“I think that true health care reform cannot proceed without tort reform,” he said.

Several long-time locals who originally hail from countries with universal health care saw the reform as long overdue. Peter Bruce, a 10-year Vail resident from Australia, said he supports the bill.

“I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “I’m a little disappointed it was weakened but I’m surprised and impressed that the president got it through.”

Bruce thinks health care should be part of a country’s infrastructure, like education or roads. He’s surprised that America, despite being one of the wealthiest countries, has such a poor safety net within the medical system for its people, including military veterans.

Likewise, Vail resident Juan Arancibia said he likes that the bill will extend coverage to more Americans, including uninsured children.

“Anything that will better the standard of living and the life in the U.S. – I approve,” said the 34-year-old Argentina native who has been a permanent resident of the U.S. for 25 years.

For many other people in town, the jury is still out on the health care bill.

Byron Vinger, a Glenwood Springs resident who has been working construction in Vail, said it’s too soon to tell whether the massive bill will be good for the country.

“I have a hard time believing government can manage health care and make it affordable when you go to the D.M.V. and stand in line for three hours,” he said.

On the other hand, he said the bill might encourage health insurance companies to cut their profit margins a little.

Jill Kovacevich, practice manager for the Doctors on Call in Avon, sees potential benefits and pitfalls. She likes that the bill will block insurance companies from dropping or delaying claims because a patient has pre-existing conditions.

Currently, medical providers feel the financial burn when patients who have been denied health insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition ultimately seek medical attention and then cannot pay their bills, she said. Plus, she says patients should have access to coverage, even if they have a chronic condition like cancer or diabetes.

“It’s ultimately important we all have coverage no matter what we face as we go along,” Kovacevich said.

On the downside, she said, the bill fails to regulate health insurance companies as strictly as it would, say, utility companies. Instead, the bill hopes to reign in insurance companies by fostering competition among them – and Kovacevich is unsure that will work.

McCoy resident Melinda Gorman, a Republican, seemed resigned to the fact that the health care bill passed, but hopes the politicians will move on.

“Well, I knew it was coming,” she said. “I’m hoping now that the Democrats got their health care passed, they can focus on what a majority of the Americans really need, which is the economy.”

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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