In approximately eight months many of us will go to the polls to change or keep elected officials. We will also see a new gubernatorial administration elected. What an opportunity this will be for each of us! There are many issues facing the Virgin Islands, some more urgent than others. Unfortunately, it is rare that any administration can wipe out all of our problems in one or two terms, but it is possible to begin the process of attacking those problems that present the biggest threats.
There has been a lot of talk and debate about health care: who has it, who needs it and who should keep it. This is not an issue that is unique to the territory. It is a major issue in the United States, of which we are an extension. Although there are many perspectives on the issue of health care and how it should be addressed, almost everyone is in agreement that something has to be done.
In the private sector many of the large companies, known for providing great benefit packages, are re-examining how much if any benefits should continue to be provided because the rise in health care costs to the employers are continuing to skyrocket. However, for every private sector employee who loses his/her health care benefits, it places added stress on the government to provide care in some form or another. For those fortunate ones in the territory, who are current government workers receiving generous employer-sponsored health benefits, count your blessings. For both the private and public employers the rising costs of health care are having a direct impact on the types and quality of services these employers can provide to the customer or the level of public services that can be provided within our communities. For every dollar that is averted from public services to cover the costs of rising health care, it causes a decline of other services that could be provided.
Health care is a worry for everyone. For those that do not have it, it can be extremely stressful. For those that do have it, it is a challenge to pay for it. As we enter election mode here in the Virgin Islands, I urge those that are considering running for office or staying in office to make health care a part of their political platform. We cannot ignore the overall impact of those in our community that do not have health care coverage, and those that are struggling to keep it.
I do not have all the answers; I do have a couple of suggestions. I do urge those that will be coming into office to attack this issue with both focus and commitment. There should be an immediate re-examination of the level of health care provided to government workers and an honest determination of how much our government can continue to afford. Look at balancing the costs of rising health care costs with the raising need of public services. The impact of those in our community that do not have health care and a search for a way to work with local employers (large and small) to provide health care benefits should be taken seriously.
Finally, while this is a critical problem both here and in the United States, it is my hope that as we change elected officials that the replacements will be the ones to travel a rough and uncharted path of finding a workable solution.
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