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Vail parking plan short-sighted

Last week, after four years of planning, the Vail Town Council approved a plan to site a fire station and 58 affordable homes on the Wendy’s/Chamonix parcel. Now, upon the recommendation of the Vail Parking Task Force, the town is pursuing a conditional use permit to place 180 parking spaces where the homes are to be built. They do say it will only be temporary, but the staff memorandum from Greg Hall, dated August 8, already contemplates parking into 2010.

Why spend $200,000 on a temporary site? Why not use that money to subsidize the ECO bus system and take cars off the roads? I’ve been told this parking is needed to help mitigate the expected impacts of skier traffic. I urge you to attend a meeting from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on August 14 at the old Wendy’s site. There will be many ramifications ” stay informed, be aware and voice your opinions to the decision makers.

Let’s not “pave paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Bob Armour, Vail

Re: Debate with Rep. Bob Schaffer, “Your Show” Channel 20, July 20

Dear Rep. Udall,

You serve neither your constituents nor Democrats well when you revert to distorted language propagated by Republicans surrounding health care reform.

Referring to single-payer health care as “government health care” short-circuits the debate, and misrepresents single-payer health care, which is in fact a single-risk-pool insurance with free choice of private providers ” the same as traditional Medicare before Republicans moved to privatize Medicare (at a 12 percent higher cost). Contrary to assertions by the right wing “free market” chorus, only single-payer insurance allows unlimited choice of private providers, whereas private insurance limits choice to “in plan” doctors. Only single-payer is capable of providing comprehensive, continuous health benefits and protection against medical bankruptcy.

Why are more legislators like yourself not protesting the abomination of 2003 prescription drug reform, written by insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies with billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies and inflated profits for their bottom lines, while prohibiting negotiation of bulk drug prices? Instead of privatizing Medicare for profit, why not improve and expand its coverage for everyone? Traditional Medicare has overhead costs of less than 4 percent, whereas private insurance diverts 25 percent or more to profits, lobbying, marketing, exorbitant CEO salaries and wasteful administrative costs. Profit is a perverse incentive for health insurance, which protects its bottom line by reducing benefits and shifting greater costs to consumers.

The insulated political class in Washington, dependent on corporate money and privy to 70 percent taxpayer-subsidized health coverage, seems out of touch with the public. Polls by Pew and others revealed increasing numbers ” 54 to 65 percent ” support a national single-payer health care plan. A recent study reported that 59 percent of U.S. physicians “support government legislation to establish national health insurance,” an increase of 10 percent since 2002 (Annals of Internal Medicine, 3/31/08).

Notably, more than 20 federal and state studies since 1990, including the 2007 Lewin Group evaluation in Colorado, have demonstrated that single-payer health insurance is the only reform model that can both save money and provide comprehensive health care benefits for all. The U.S. Conference of Mayors recently endorsed national health care, specifically HR676.

Rather than parrot distorted political rhetoric surrounding health care, we have everything to gain from an honest dialogue about quality, safety-centered universal single-payer health care, in place of profiteering health insurance gatekeepers.

Michele Swenson

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 for insurance premiums. Also, it is very difficult for small businesses with less than 50 employees to offer 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 ” nearly one in four. 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 will continue to ensure our community can access quality health care needed for all.

Arn Menconi

Eagle County commissioner


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