LTD Simply Can't Sustain Health Care Costs

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Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Susan A. Ban For The Register-Guard

I write as a citizen who works with low-income people and who serves as one director on the Lane Transit District board. The concerns and perspective I share are my own and represent neither the board nor management of LTD.

As director of ShelterCare, my job is to advocate for more than 1,200 clients each year. These clients face exceptional challenges: all have very low incomes; most have a psychiatric disability or brain injury that complicates their efforts to live successful, independent lives. I am proud to work with 150 employees whose choice to provide service through a nonprofit agency means they manage with less income than they might have in the public sector.

ShelterCare's clients (and many employees) depend on transit for activities central to their lives: grocery shopping, work, physician appointments. A bus strike will hurt ShelterCare's clients significantly: They may not be able to get to work; they may lose the income that keeps them housed; they may be unable to get to the professional services that keep them healthy and allow them to cope with a challenging life. My priority is to advocate for my clients. I do not want the buses to stop rolling.

At the same time, I want to preserve transit for this generation of bus riders and the generations that will follow. I applied to serve on the LTD board because I felt that transit was an essential service for ShelterCare clients. I wanted to keep that service vital and strong.

That is why I advocated for continuing routes during the recent recession while LTD's payroll tax revenues dropped. That is why I supported the move to stop transfers from the general account to capital projects for a three-year period. That is why I support LTD's investment in capital projects: replacing aging buses with safer, more reliable models, developing more accommodating shelters, and developing corridor improvements such as dedicated bus lanes to keep transit viable as congestion increases.

As a director for LTD, I understand my role is to be a steward of an essential public asset, one that makes a huge difference for my agency's clients. I believe it is responsible stewardship to manage escalating health care costs.

In my own agency, the cost of health care benefits has grown 35 percent for several successive years. Were we to have continued the same level of benefits, we would have had to reduce services: cut jobs and limit the number of clients served. Instead, we chose to manage health care costs by reducing benefits and increasing the amount employees pay for health services. …