Letters to the editor

Single payer is the only campaign issue

“Single payer” is the buzzword of Vermont’s 2014 election season. A candidate’s pledge to support single payer is the litmus test for some. Big money – mostly from out-of-state unions – is flowing into Vermont to support candidates who pass the single payer test.

So, what’s the big deal? If the state delivers on its promise — the same or better health care at a lower cost — we’re ALL going to support single payer. This is really a non-issue.

But perhaps Vermonters are starting to have doubts. The single payer political action committee, Vermont Leads, found only 10 candidates out of the 34 contestants to endorse in the 2014 legislative primary races. (If I were running for reelection, I assume I would have passed the test and gotten an endorsement, too, because I voted for Act 48.)

Voters now have seen how poorly the state has performed in its first attempt at health care reform, and they are rightfully more cautious about supporting something that has yet to be described. Blind support of a program that has no clear definition is like agreeing to buy a new car before you know how many miles it gets to the gallon, what it costs, or what the monthly payments will be. The design and implementation of Vermont’s health care exchange have been a disaster. No one disputes that. As a legislator who voted for the bills that created our exchange, I am culpable on some level for this failure, because the Legislature didn’t insist on more safeguards and checkpoints on the rollout.

Single payer legislation must be much more carefully crafted and robust, and no one should agree to buy this thing until they know what it is. We know we want a new car, but we need to see the sticker.

The question for voters should be: Do we want candidates who will insist on what was promised, or should they act like lemmings marching to the sea? What if the single payer system does not provide universal access to health care? What if it rations the quality or quantity of health care? What if it is more expensive than our current cost? Do we want candidates to vote for single payer regardless of access, quality, or cost? This seems to be the real issue.

Unfortunately, we did not know the answers to these questions by the primary this Tuesday. We likely won’t know by the November election either. So what’s a voter to do? Sometimes, the past is the best predictor of the future. We need to elect legislators who will pursue the promise of single payer but not allow another health care debacle to occur in Vermont. That’s what I intend to do.

Rep. Paul Ralston
Middlebury

Mentors needed

Why do we say we want change, but don’t want to help make it happen? Why do we say we want a great community, but always respond with “I’m too busy” when help is needed? Why do we wish young people were healthier and our schools were safer, but don’t make the time to get to know even one young person?

FriendCHIPS Mentoring collaborates with Fleming, ADL, Founders, and EMS to run a mentoring program for young people in grades 4 through 8. Our mission is through youth-adult partnerships, to empower youth in our community to make healthy life choices that enable them to maximize their personal potential. Most of our kids don’t necessarily qualify for special supports in school, but could really benefit from having a safe, caring adult walk beside them. Whether offering support in the midst of a divorce or illness in the family, discussing challenges with peers, improving self-esteem, or just playing basketball, making a collage, or building a castle, our mentor pairs have a great time and form meaningful friendships!

This can make all the difference for these kids! Despite push after push for new mentors, we have really struggled to get enough folks on board. The excuse is generally about being “too busy.” But, are we really too busy? Or are we too busy to volunteer for an hour a week but happy to spend 12 hours a week watching TV? Are we too busy to hang out with a great kid for 60 minutes, but don’t think twice about wasting a whole night scanning through Facebook? What is it, really?

There are currently over 20 young people on the waiting list for a mentor, many have been on the waiting list for nearly a year. Being a mentor only requires one hour a week, during the school day, during the school year. We provide all the supplies and you meet in a space at one of the schools.

The funny thing about how hard it is to get people to volunteer is that once they do they LOVE it! I’m really hopeful that some more folks will step up and we can get all of these great kids off the waitlist and into positive, meaningful friendships with caring adults. If anyone is interested in talking more about the possibility of becoming a mentor they can feel free to email or call me at darcycaryl@essexchips.org or (816) 872-5626. I would love to answer any additional questions and share more about the program. If you don’t mentor, do something. Don’t just complain or wish, do something positive in your community today.

DarcyCaryl Evans
Essex