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Plaza Expansion Out of Step With Healthcare Reform

President Obama’s commitment to reform the nation’s healthcare system presents a challenge to democratic lawmakers: Eventually they will have to choose sides—either they stand with the people or stand with the corporations.

Congressman Brian Higgins eagerly supports a proposal to build a massive truck plaza inside one of the poorest and most racially diverse communities in his congressional district—Buffalo’s Lower West Side, home to the youngest population in Buffalo.

Medical studies confirm that the overall prevalence of asthma along the Peace Bridge corridor is three times higher than the national average. Recently, a neighborhood pharmacist was surprised after receiving a one week shipment of 170 Ventolin asthma inhalers. “So what do you think of that?” he said. Well, shocking! Do the math: $42 retail per inhaler equals $370,000 annually just for one medication at one West Side pharmacy.

The public health cost to this region for treating the asthma epidemic on the west side is already estimated at $70 million a year. A majority of that is billed to Medicaid or other government-sponsored programs.

Congressman Higgins and Mayor Byron Brown, both Democrats, are eager to build a bigger truck plaza but in doing so will have to turn a blind eye to escalating the associated health risks. How will their position impact a public option plan for those who cannot afford private health insurance? Which side of the healthcare reform aisle do they stand on?

Kathleen Mecca

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