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Vail Valley Voices: Town hall hecklers embarrass Vail Valley community

Jill Kovacevich
Vail, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

In my opinion, the town hall meeting in Edwards last Friday with Sen. Michael Bennet was somewhat of an embarrassment to the otherwise intelligent informed community that is Eagle County.

I attended in hopes of hearing meaningful communication from my community members as to the need for healthcare reform or not, and the pros and cons of any and all current proposals.

What I saw from some community members was abusive, disruptive, jeering behavior from folks who had no intention of listening or communicating rationally, but preferred to use name calling and anger to convey their message.

Keep in mind there was also a very impressive community contingency of voters and taxpayer who attended for the same reason as myself and conducted themselves rationally and reasonably.

It was difficult, nevertheless, to endure and overlook the abusive behavior of a few attendees.

I first sat next to a person who called me a Marxist in response to my comment that primary care needs change to survive. He stuck his hand in my face and told me to talk to the hand while continuing “you’re a damned liberal; let the free market deal with it,” refusing to listen to any further disclosure on my behalf.

My intention was to voice problems faced by health-care providers in our private insurance payer system.

Obviously, the only word this person heard was “change.” Finally, I got up and moved to the back of the room.

In the back, however, things didn’t get much better. Those of us in the back were subject to the constant heckling of a person who claimed their 1st Amendment right to yell loudly, “boo, bull and yeah” to most every sentence spoken by whomever.

In my opinion, this behavior was irresponsible and disruptive from both community members. The more appropriate behavior would be to stand and articulate your concerns, and many folks did just that.

It’s unfortunate that for a select few, it was easier to heckle and badger than to reasonably defend or advocate your thoughts. I would propose those folks take time to specifically articulate their concerns and practice communication rather than obfuscation.

On a good note, over 300 people demonstrated by their presence alone that our community is concerned about health care. What is not apparent, however, is a consensus of whether our current health-care system needs reform.

Bipartisan elected officials, federal and state, are spending countless hours and dollars to convince us the system is broke and needs repair.

On the flip side, the private health insurance lobby is spending millions of dollars to persuade us to keep the status quo. Taxpayers are left in the middle, very angry, equating change with higher taxes, less efficiencies and a well-founded fear that government intervention will make matters worse.

This has left the discussion of provider economics unarticulated, unconsidered and ultimately unaddressed. As taxpayers, our fear of increased taxes, increased entitlements and increased government intervention forces us to protect the status quo. We become convinced that the current system really isn’t that bad, so it can’t be broke (economically or structurally) and “what ain’t broke, don’t need fixin’.”

In reality, the status quo provider business model is broke and may be beyond fixing. Further, the medical provider lacks an organized voice in the ongoing “reform” debate.

Our current system is not a free market. Rather it is already regulated at the state and federal level to the benefit of the private insurance industry and the detriment of providers.

Providers no longer control a market share. Providers lack negotiating power to bargain better contracts with the private insurance.

The result is decreased revenues, increased costs, decreased physician compensation in primary care and some specialties and decreased numbers of doctors available or willing to enter into private health care.

Many providers would relish a return of the free market system. We would eliminate the preferred provider network, restore provider implemented fee schedules, require patient payment at time of service and eliminate provider claims processing.

Insurance-provider discounts would be eliminated and the cost shifted to the patient. The patient-taxpayer would negotiate their premium and benefits individually and have choice of provider.

Provider-fee schedules would be based on cost needs and what the free market would bear. The for profit insurance business would continue to benefit its stockholders.

Is this likely to occur? Absolutely not. Does this “free market” model assure us of assessable, affordable, sustainable quality health care. Probably not. Most assuredly it would increase patient cost and is that a risk we are willing to take?

Given health care is not likely to return to a free market system, the town hall message is clear. We need to know more than the assumption that health-care costs are rising and need more solutions than taxpayer funding.

Jill Kovacevich is a local medical administrator.


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