Hundreds debate health care in Vail Valley |

Hundreds debate health care in Vail Valley

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyStephen Larghi, right, from Boulder gets applause from some members of the Vail Valley audience as he questions representative Jared Polis on some of the controversial points in the proposed health reform bill Wednesday during a public meeting on the bill at the Singletree Community Center in Singletree.

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – The national health care debate hits home for Brittany and Tom Ehman from Edwards.

Their one-month-old son was born with a collapsed lung.

Their 1 and 1/2-year-old daughter has kidney disease and an intolerance for gluten.

So given all the doctors their babies see, the Ehmans worry about how health care reform would affect their children.

“We just want to make sure they’re still going to have care if this goes through,” said Brittany Ehman, 23. “And have the specialists who know their history.”

The Ehmans were among more than 300 people who showed up for a town hall meeting on Wednesday with U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who represents the Vail Valley. The crowd was so big, only half of the people could fit inside the Singletree Community Center in Edwards.

Polis stressed that under health care reform, people could choose between a private insurance carrier or a public insurance option.

“Some Americans trust their private insurance companies more than they trust government,” he said. “Other Americans trust government more than private insurance companies.”

Under the health care plan, employers that offer health insurance would contract for a “public exchange” for their employees, Polis said. Employees would choose from a range of public and private insurance options through the exchange.

Employers who don’t offer health insurance to employees would face an 8-percent payroll tax, Polis said.

He said the plan would provide insurance to most of the country’s 47 million uninsured. It would not apply to illegal immigrants, he said. There are four different bills facing federal lawmakers, all of which include some type of public health insurance option, Polis said.

Eagle resident Donna Meyer asked why the more than 1,000-page bill is so long and why it’s being rushed through.

Polis said he disagrees that it is being rushed through. He said lawmakers started working on the bill in June and don’t plan to finish until December, which gives them six months to plan it out.

Part-time Beaver Creek resident Marlene Krell, 63, said the Senate bill refers to a “comparative effectiveness board” that would make final decisions about treatment and care.

“Will you vote for a plan that will allow a board of politicians and government bureaucrats to override the decision made by patients and their doctors, and if you do support a comparative effectiveness board, what qualifies you as a politician to practice medicine?” Krell said, prompting the audience to burst into applause.

Eagle resident Charles Smallwood, a self-employed plumbing contractor, said health insurance costs too much money and he supports reform. Because he has high cholesterol, he said, the health insurance companies gave him a $10,000 deductible.

“It’s pricing people out of the market who are legitimately healthy but have some obscure condition,” he said.

Smallwood said adding a cheaper public option would force private health insurance companies to drive down their prices.

“They are taking us for a ride and they’re spending a fortune to convince people this is a bad idea,” he said.

But insurance companies aren’t the only ones who think the health care reform plan is a bad idea.

Vickie Deacon, of Edwards, came to the meeting wielding a “Nobama health scare” sign.

“I feel like the government option will be total control over pretty personal parts of our life,” she said.

As the national health care debate heats up, there has been a lot of buzz about whether Democrats should try to move forward with the plan without Republican support.

“What’s important is to get the policy right,” Polis said. “If the policy’s right and it’s good for America, good for people, good for our economy, I don’t care if 100 Democrats or 100 Republicans or none of them support it. If we can pass it and it’s good, that’s the bottom line.”

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