Email letters, September 5, 2013
What is affordable about the “Affordable Care” law?
Finally. the word is out about what “Affordable Health Care” really means. As my rates have suddenly doubled, I realize that it means health care will be made affordable for all those people who never have and never will intend to buy insurance, ever. For all the rest of us who have been buying insurance all our lives, it means that we get to pay for another person. As I mentioned, my rates have doubled, and, for a less generous policy.
In the past our rates were going up based on the number of people who showed up at the hospital emergency room with all manner of health complaints. And, it did seem like the ones who could buy insurance were being treated unfairly for having to pay for all their ailments, which were being billed at emergency room rates.
So, the “plan” seemed to be that we would force people to get insurance and our rates would go down because a huge number of people would be paying into the system, healthy or not. Well, did we really think that those people who refused to buy insurance would actually go out
and buy it? The unfortunate truth is that those people will never buy insurance if they don’t have to and, it seems, they don’t.
But, conveniently, since some people are willing and able to pay for insurance, it appears that the government will require that they should be paying for another person, as well. Additionally, once those people who will soon be “armed” with an insurance card, realize their power, they will go to the same doctors as the ones who can pay are and will fill those waiting rooms in order to avoid the long waits they previously suffered at the emergency rooms. And, they will be empowered to use that insurance as often as they please, as legitimately as those paying their way.
The 3+ hours of waiting at the hospital emergency room may soon be what the rest of us will experience in our doctors’ waiting rooms. Is this what we were lead to believe would happen?
Eagle County commissioners adopt set of principles on water
Leaders from the headwaters region of Colorado are engaged in the Colorado Water Plan, much like the Grand Valley water users whose efforts were highlighted in the Sentinel’s Sept. 3 edition. Because the headwaters region experiences the ongoing effects of Front Range water diversions, we have recently adopted a set of principles to guide our participation in the planning process and would like to share those principles with your readers.
The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments Water Quality/Quantity Committee, made up of local government and water district officials from Grand, Gunnison, Eagle, Park, Pitkin, and Summit Counties, is working to ensure that the state’s planning process considers the economy, environment and well being of the headwaters region. The principles adopted by the Quality/Quantity Committee include the following statements:
• The Colorado Water Plan must start with existing local land use plans and regulations before endorsing plans to supply future growth.
• Each river basin in Colorado should exhaust available water supply within its own basin before planning to take water from another area of the state.
• The Governor’s staff should not act as a proponent of a new water project until state and federal regulatory processes have been completed and local governments in the area from which water would be taken approve the project.
Like the Grand Valley water users, we believe the Colorado Water Plan must acknowledge the risk of lower Colorado River basin states like Nevada or California calling water from Colorado, and the Plan must outline mechanisms to mitigate that risk.
Finally, the Colorado Water Plan should not identify supply to one part of the state at the expense of another. We will continue to work closely with state agencies to protect water quality and quantity in our headwaters region.
Eagle County Commissioner
New film depicts corporate greed in pharmaceutical industry
I’d like to make people aware of a current film addressing a shocking example of corporate greed and cruelty called “Fire in the Blood.” It tells the story of “how Western pharmaceutical companies and governments aggressively blocked access to low-cost AIDS drugs for the countries of Africa and the global south in the years after 1996 – causing ten million or more unnecessary deaths.”
This entire tragedy was engineered by out-of-control multi-national drug companies that want to maintain their
profit margins, humanity be damned. The film is not showing locally, at least not yet, but googling the title will lead you their website. These companies have always maintained that their obscenely high prices are justified by the cost of research and development, yet they adamantly refuse
to release any hard data. So what are they hiding?
I’m reminded of the local news story about discrepancies in pricing at our two local hospitals. Officials couldn’t explain why one hospital could be so much cheaper, or expensive, for the same procedure. If costs can’t be explained, it means they are arbitrarily fixed. In the jargon of capitalism, they charge “whatever the market will bear.” When life itself is at stake, people will “bear” almost any cost, but is it moral for corporations to use that opportunity to maximize profit?
I believe that health care is one sector of our economy where capitalism needs to be regulated. If the right wing’s
assertion that our country is a Christian nation is true, then health care pricing should reflect those values. I don’t recall Jesus sending Lazarus a huge billing statement.
State auditors making up the rules as they go
I recently had the opportunity to sit through an audit by the Colorado Department of Labor with one of my clients and I thought you might find this interesting.
They stated the reason for the audit as an error but the error was caused by the state’s scanner. Even though there was no error on our part, they continued the audit. During the part of the audit that reviewed subcontract labor, the auditor asked for documentation. I provided W9s, state-issued “Independent Contractor Forms,” and Certificates of Liability. I was promptly informed that the contractor forms and the W9s were not acceptable documents, and the insurance certs in themselves were not enough to eliminate the subcontractor from being reclassified as an employee.
I asked the auditor what documentation he needed to prove the subcontractor is a legitimate business. The following is a summation of what he considers acceptable.
1. A list of other contractors that the subcontractor works for (hit list) with the following qualification. If the subcontractor gets more than 33 percent to 50 percent of his income from one contractor, he would be considered an employee of that contractor.
2. An invoice with the following qualifications. The invoice must be preprinted and cannot be handwritten.
3. Proof of advertising. The subcontractor must have signs on his vehicle or phonebook or Internet advertising; business cards are not acceptable.
4. Certificate of Liability Insurance.
I asked him “What if a subcontractor does not want to be employee?” His response was that it does not matter what they want, the state would still consider them employees.
To say that I am stunned at the absolute abuse of power here is just a vast understatement. Let me render an opinion on some of this auditor’s responses.
A business that has registered for an FEIN number, filed a W9 with the contractor and signed a contract has stated “intent.” They intend to be a business. Regarding my right to be a business and not an employee, if I choose to operate a business and not be an employee, it is my right to do so. For the state of Colorado to reclassify me as an employee is a violation of my constitutional rights.
Almost all small business startups start with one or two major clients, which means that they are going to derive more than 33 percent of their income from one or more contractors.
Also, while advertising makes sense for most businesses, choosing not to advertise does not mean you are not in business. Many businesses do quite well with no or minimal advertising. Some businesses have such a narrow market that advertising is not a cost effective method of getting business.
By reclassifying subcontractors as employees, the state will pay out more in unemployment benefits than it can collect in premiums, and because my client will no longer use them as subcontractors, those that could grow up to be big businesses and employ other people may never get that chance.
Punishing small business for the states depleted unemployment fund isn’t going to help fix the problem. This is a lazy man’s approach to fixing the issue.
I may not know the exact letter of the law, but I know the difference between right and wrong, and what the state is doing is wrong. The state of Colorado should provide a definitive document subcontractors can provide to contractors the state will accept as proof of business — not make up the rules as they go, give contractors a list of unreasonable documents to collect and make passing an audit a moving target that nobody can hit.
Pot stronger than ever, damages kids’ brains
What’s all the fuss about using marijuana – It’s harmless, right? NO! New advances in developmental neuroscience from Harvard Medical School demonstrate that adolescent brains are uniquely vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of pot. The earlier children start using pot the greater the
permanent changes to brain structure and function.
Our brains continue to grow into the mid to late 20s. This latter development is primarily in white matter, the part that forms connections between the various brain areas. The
number and sophistication of these connections in our brain is critically important for cognitive function: thinking, memory andIQ.
Pot inhibits anandamide – an important regulator of brain activity – slowing many vital functions but more importantly preventing the formation of the innumerable linkages between neurons needed for higher level processes. Kids on pot acutely have muddled brains that impede learning & schoolwork. They can’t think straight, fully participate in group or individual programs or make life plans. Instead of learning how to cope with life’s problems, users miss out on personal & developmental growth.
Regular pot use causes their brain to change in ways similar to a computer whose CPU slows over time, looses expansion slots, USB and HDMI ports, then the ability to connect to your MP3 players, Ethernet or read/write CDs.
Who wants a computer that is slow and isolated? Who wants a brain like that? Too bad you can’t trade-in your used brain for a new, unspoiled one. Regular users become addicted. It’s reported to be harder to kick than opiates.
Early pot use is associated with development of serious mental health disorders. Kids who use pot have 2-6 times increased risk of major depression, psychosis and schizophrenia. Younger age of first use increases the risk of dependence – 400 percent greater at 16 years of age than 21. Teenage pot use leads to smaller brains, lower IQ, shorter adult height, increased testicular cancer, more car crashes, similar risk of lung disease and cancer as tobacco, and adverse effects on athletic performance.
Importantly, the pot our middle-aged lawmakers toyed with when they were young was only 20 percent as strong as what is being sold now. Some may remember it as having little effect. It’s like a can of 3.2 percent beer vs. a double shot of vodka. That’s what is being cultivated now.
Changing laws have made it available, lack of enforcement leads to no punishment. Our children don’t have a chance against this stuff. I’m not crying wolf. I’m trying to prevent this wolf from eating an entire generation’s brain one toke at a time.
SHERMAN D. STRAW, MD FAAFP