By Sean Barron
Kim Kengor remembers having needed an outpatient procedure done when she lived in Norway during the early 1990s.
What was her co-pay? The equivalent of about $60.
“In that system, everyone was covered; everyone got their necessary treatment,” said Kengor, a health educator for various companies that provide wellness screenings. “No one went bankrupt paying their medical bills, and no one died from a lack of access to heath care.”
Kengor advocated for what she sees as the need for a single-payer health care plan as she shared her story during Saturday afternoon’s town hall gathering at Howland High School, 200 Shaffer Drive Northeast.
Speaking to the crowd of about 120 was state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, who addressed a variety of questions on everything from environmental issues to infrastructure concerns to protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. Schiavoni is a 2018 Ohio gubernatorial candidate.
Also invited was U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, though he did not attend the gathering.
Kengor estimated that 29 million to 30 million Americans suffer from diabetes while between 85 million and 90 million have pre-diabetes symptoms, which is about 40 percent of the population.
Without adequate health care coverage, such as that offered by the Affordable Care Act, many of those people could not afford to pay for doctor visits, eye-care and lab tests, insulin shots and blood-test samples, she said.
As a result, getting rid of the ACA, also known as “Obamacare,” would cause many people to not seek care. That would inevitably result in a higher incidence of heart attack and stroke, kidney failure, infections and eye problems – all of which are far costlier to treat than having a plan that focuses much more on prevention, she continued.
House Republican leaders, however, pulled their health-care legislation Friday after House Speaker Paul Ryan was unable to garner the 216 votes needed for passage, a move that is widely seen as a major political setback for President Donald Trump.
As a result, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislation, the 2010 ACA, will remain in place, despite seven years of Republican efforts to dismantle it.
Amanda Daquelente, a Howland High English teacher who’s also the adviser for the school’s Howland Unity Gay-Straight Alliance, told Schiavoni she fears some of Trump’s campaign rhetoric has emboldened some students and community members to bully, discriminate against and deny equal access to LGBT students.
“I think with this issue, we need to put more names and faces out there to tell their stories” and remind others that members of the LGBT community are just as human, regardless of their sexual orientation, Schiavoni said in response.
Another attendee wanted to know Schiavoni’s plans regarding regulating the oil and gas industry and improving the state’s air and water quality, to which the senator said some oil and gas exploration is safe and necessary.
Nevertheless, he called the number of injection wells in the area “a major, major concern,” and noted that newer technology exists to make it safer to dispose of brine water from hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
One man denounced Ohio House Bill 53, which would allow workers to opt out of joining unions while giving unions the ability to not represent their employees.
The so-called right-to-work law would weaken unions and make it nearly impossible for them to organize, though the Ohio Constitution allows for a referendum vote such as what occurred after the passage in 2011 of the controversial Senate Bill 5, which stripped public employees of collective-bargaining rights, Schiavoni explained.
As a way of mocking Portman for his absence, about a dozen people lined up to ask questions to a cardboard cut-out facsimile of the senator, all of which are to be emailed to him.
In a surprise move a short time later, the cut-out’s face was revealed to be that of Trump, after which many attendees took opportunities to excoriate the president for what they see as his failures as commander-in chief, as well as the FBI and other investigations clouding his presidency.