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Are legislators listening to voters' concerns on health care?

With the primary election just weeks away and the general election rapidly approaching, one concern voters are voicing is the availability of affordable health care. Some people have access to the best health care, while millions of Americans are uninsured and simply have to hope for the best when it comes to their general health.

In between are legions of people who have inadequate coverage and/or deductibles that force policyholders to pay substantial out-of-pocket sums before their health care coverage kicks in.

Kim Arnett, a single mother of two who lives in Clarksburg, falls in the latter category. Her income is high enough that she does not qualify for welfare or Medicaid, yet it's low enough that her monthly insurance premium takes a substantial chunk out of her budget.

Meanwhile, Ray Summers of Lost Creek is a full-time restaurant worker who hopes to stay in good health for a very good reason. He has no health insurance whatsoever. Many food-service establishments don't offer a company policy and they rarely pay high enough wages to allow their employees to purchase individual policies.

"We're supposed to be the richest nation, but if you don't have insurance (the health care system) doesn't care," says Summers.

The Rev. Bob Bartram of Smithburg in Doddridge County knows he is one of the lucky ones. He says he would have difficulty paying for an individual policy if his congregation didn't pay for 75 percent of the premium for a church health insurance policy as part of his salary and benefits package.

Bartram, however, worries about some members of his church. "I have folks within my congregation that do not have health insurance," he says. "They're hard workers but they're not able to buy health insurance and their employer doesn't provide it. I cringe ever time I hear about one of them getting sick. The folks in Doddridge County are quick to pitch in but there's still a great need for some kind of universal system."

We think that Bartram is right when he speaks of the need for some type of universal health coverage in this country. And it needs to be affordable, perhaps on a sliding scale depending on an individual's ability to pay.

In a nation with such vast economic resources, it is indeed hard to fathom how all citizens don't have access to excellent health care. Our politicians, whether they work in Charleston or Washington, D.C., had better start listening to their constituents' concerns before voters decide to opt for a change in leadership.

Today's editorial is a reflection of the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin, Matt Harvey and J. Cecil Jarvis.

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