Craig residents discuss health care, education at Club 20 meeting

Forthcoming legislation, potential and concrete, was on the minds of people from the Western Slope this weekend while attending the fall meeting of Club 20.

The group's meeting, held Friday and Saturday at Grand Junction’s Two Rivers Convention Center, brought forth talking points regarding federal and state government, namely the United States’ Affordable Care Act and the Colorado Commits to Kids Initiative.

Among those speaking about the Affordable Care Act, which goes into effect nationwide at the beginning of 2014, were Jennifer Pierotti, representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and discussing the impact of the Affordable Care Act on small- and large-scale businesses, and Patty Fontneau, CEO of Connect for Health Colorado.

Fontneau spoke about her organization’s efforts to increase access, affordability and choice of health insurance within the state. Among the services on Connect for Health Colorado’s website, which will go into greater effect Oct. 1, is a breakdown of health insurance options county by county, based on levels of need and area availability.

Emotions about the Affordable Care Act were varied among the attending representatives of the 22 Western Slope counties.

“The intent of this meeting was to provide information for individuals and businesses in regards to what they need to do" under the Affordable Care Act, Club 20 Executive Director Bonnie Peterson said. “We had 26 meetings last year throughout Western Colorado as part of a grant with Colorado Trust and what we learned is that people are confused and concerned because they don’t know what they’re supposed to do. I think people really wanted to learn something about how to access health care.”

Among those from Craig attending were Club 20 board members Ray Beck and Bob Johnson, community members JoAnn Baxter and Karol Bullen and Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid.

Kinkaid, who long has been outspoken about his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, said he felt a sense of “inevitability” at the meeting.

“I’ve been holding out hope that it will get defunded, but it’s going to happen,” he said.

The meeting and those speaking were very informative, Kinkaid said.

“I really enjoyed what Jennifer Pierotti had to say because (the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is) looking at it pragmatically,” he said. “They’re going to try in this next Congress to get bills introduced that would tweak the bad things about it, and even though it will stay the law, they want to make it a business-friendly proposition.”

Beck said he was glad to see a large turnout for the meeting because of the national importance of the issue at hand.

“This is so huge, and people really need to get themselves educated about it,” he said.

In other topics, the discussion about health care Saturday came on the heels of the Club 20 board’s 13-3 vote Friday to oppose the passage of the Colorado Commits to Kids Initiative, which morphed from Ballot Initiative 22 to Amendment 66 in August. The proposed piece of legislation would raise nearly $1 billion for the State Education Achievement Fund with a two-tiered state income tax increase.

Beck voted on behalf of Moffat County against supporting the amendment.

“It was not an easy decision because there were comments on both sides,” Beck said. “Though we all support a quality education for our young adults, this bill did not feel like it was the right tool, and the language wasn’t clear enough as far as I was concerned.”

Kinkaid agreed with Beck’s hesitance to back the amendment.

“If we were going to raise taxes, I’d like to see us spend more money on our roads and highways because I’m afraid they’re going to fall into disrepair,” Kinkaid said. “It’s also not a good idea to put a tax increase into the constitution because if it doesn’t work out, you’re stuck with it and it’ll be really hard to amend the amendment.”

Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@craigdailypress.com.

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