The Community Voice Forum hosted by SUNY Broome’s Civic Engagement Center Advisory Board on Wednesday August 9, 2017.
Health care, drug policy and a lack of attention paid to rural communities were just some of the topics on the table Wednesday night at SUNY Broome’s second “Public Voice” forum, which brought roughly 25 people together to share their thoughts and concerns on federal policy.
The event, hosted in the college’s student union, is based on a simple, though unusual, idea. Elected officials come, but don’t talk — they simply listen.
Frustration with the country’s health care system and proposed federal budget cuts stole the show.
“I have friends in Europe, and they have wonderful health insurance,” said Karl Wokan, a retired vocational rehabilitation counselor from Vestal.
Since the federal government won’t be passing single-payer health insurance anytime soon, he said, New York state government should get on it.
“Just because I have some decent insurance doesn’t mean I don’t want all of you to,” he said. “The insurance companies and the drug companies have run this show for the last thirty years.”
Others were concerned about significant cuts to social service programs the Trump administration has proposed as part of its budget.
Sue Ruff, advocacy director of the Southern Tier Independence Center and vice president of the New York State Independent Living Council, said she was deeply concerned about how the administration’s proposal to cut a collective 57 percent to three programs — an independent living program, a developmental disability program and a traumatic brain injury program — would affect seniors in the area.
And others worried about how rural areas in upstate New York, decimated by the 2008 recession but struggling before then, would make it.
“Windsor has lost its bank, its pharmacy, its art gallery, and is in danger of becoming frankly a ghost town,” said Steve Herz, a former county legislator who lives and owns a horse farm in Windsor.
Dan Livingston, who works in digital project management in Binghamton, said he was concerned he’d have to move his elderly father from Oxford because he worried about the quality of health care in the area.
“It doesn’t seem like our market-based healthcare system really values rural communities the way they should,” Livingston said. “If we’re committed to people living in rural upstate New York, we need to focus on improving the quality of those hospitals.”
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