Email letters, May 29, 2013

Upcoming insurance exchange to help small businesses

Colorado small businesses got good news last week when 17 insurance companies, six of which plan to offer group plans to small employers, submitted more than 800 plans for inclusion in the state’s insurance exchange, Connect for Health Colorado. In order for Colorado to have an affordable and healthy marketplace, there needs to be a host of choices and robust competition among carriers. This news is a great first step in that direction.

Colorado’s health insurance exchange — a cornerstone of the health care law for small employers — will be a one-stop shop in which small businesses can find the right policy for their needs and budget.

We know from opinion polling that small businesses want to use the exchange, which begins open enrollment this fall. Now that we know insurers are eager to participate, it’s even more important small businesses learn about the exchange so they can take full advantage of what it has to offer.

TIM GAUDETTE
Denver

ObamaCare to spur much-needed competition among health care providers

Contrary to Bill Forbes’ purportedly “independent” critique — “Affordable Care Act forces a particular kind of commerce” (May 28) —  of Jim Spehar’s recent column, Forbes parrots all-too-familiar “conservative” talking points.

Thus, in his Benghazi hearings, Congressman Darrell Issa cynically evinced partisan contempt for any genuine truth-finding purpose of his “oversight” committee by refusing to call witnesses requested by Democratic members and preventing those with knowledge of the facts – like Ambassador Pickering —  from testifying publicly.

Likewise, Issa’s investigation perhaps inadvertently revealed that the IRS had been misapplying the law as to tax-exempt organizations for years – to the substantial benefit of purportedly “social welfare” groups claiming to have been “targeted” as “conservative” (rather than ineptly “flagged” as “political”).

Similarly, while oil and gas companies are subject to criminal and civil penalties under federal statutes for spill-caused bird kills, wind farms are not similarly liable – because those laws require “knowing” or “wanton disregard” for eagles and/or migratory birds. Meanwhile, some 100,000,000 birds are killed annually by flying into windows.

Lawfully subpoenaing phone records of reporters implicated in national security “leak” investigations (which Republicans demand) pushes the limits of the First Amendment and may justify more robust federal press “shield” laws (which Republicans oppose).

Meanwhile, “the Affordable Care Act forces a particular kind of” long-overdue and much-needed competition within our “free enterprise,” for-profit health care “system.” 

Nevertheless, and even though Time Magazine has comprehensively chronicled “Why Medical Bills are Killing Us” (March 4), Republicans still seek to sabotage “ObamaCare.”

Recently, California demonstrated that premiums for basic medical insurance coverage under ObamaCare’s cooperatively operated state insurance exchanges will likely be much lower than previously predicted. Rather, competition among health insurers for new customers generated by those exchanges will both hold down premium rates and, in turn, incentivize health insurers to demand that providers stop overcharging them.


BILL HUGENBERG
Grand Junction

Take common-sense steps to prevent suicide attempts

It’s common knowledge that Mesa County is struggling with a high rate of suicide. The pain those suicides represent is incomprehensible. We’ve lost too many friends, coworkers, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, uncles, aunts — people whom we care about and love.

The Daily Sentinel’s recent article on gun suicides in Mesa County highlighted a particularly troublesome aspect of suicide. Easy access to guns almost always assures death. While an individual may have a long history of depression and poor coping skills, the actual suicide effort is most often impulsive, lasting only a short period of time. Frequently drugs or alcohol exacerbate the increased potential for deadly results. Even more troubling is that 85 percent of firearm suicides among youth are committed with the family gun.

Suicide prevention experts are looking at new and promising approaches that may help reduce the number of suicidal deaths. The Harvard School of Public Health has found that when lethal means are made less available or less deadly, suicide rates by that method decline and frequently suicide rates overall decline. For those of us living with individuals struggling with life’s pressures and appearing to be both hopeless and helpless, a few common-sense steps need to be taken.

1. If at all possible, remove the means by which a person can kill himself or herself. That means temporarily removing guns from the home until the danger of self-harm is passed. (Other items for self-harm should be removed as well: pills, rope, car keys.

2. If removal of weapons is not possible, then safe storage is recommended. I’ve got free gun locks available at my office and will gladly distribute them to anyone.

3. Another option is to separate guns from ammunition and keep both under lock and key.

New Hampshire has made great headway in reducing its suicide rate through a program that partners behavioral health experts with local gun shop owners to better educate the public by highlighting the danger of having guns readily available to those suffering from depression. Other states are adopting similar programs because such educational efforts have proven to be effective in reducing suicide. To view the materials created by the New Hampshire Firearms Safety Coalition, visit http://www.theconnectprogram.org.

It’s important to reduce the likelihood that someone will die from a suicide effort because, according to the Harvard School of Public Health nine out of ten people who attempt suicide and survive will not go on to die by suicide at a later date.

Kay Redfield Jamison in her powerful book Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide writes, “It is possible, with what we now know, to provide both comfort and remedy to stop at least some of the butchery. Most suicides, although by no means all, can be prevented. The breach between what we know and do is lethal.” We can reduce suicide in Mesa County. The question is whether we have the will to do so.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

KAREN LEVAD
, Director
Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation
Grand Junction

Thousands of vets wait for benefits as Fort Hood’s Hasan draws pay

This past Memorial Day weekend, as we honored U.S. military veterans as well as our fallen heroes, I was reminded of the ongoing scandal regarding veterans’ disability benefits.

At present, 600,000 of our brave veterans are waiting for their deserved disability benefits, in some instances for more than a year. This number has more than doubled since President Obama took office and named Eric Shinseki as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

While these great Americans anguish over the antiquated process and delays for their very well earned and deserved benefits, Nidal Hasan, who in the name of Allah cowardly murdered 13 fellow unarmed American soldiers in cold blood, as well as wounding 30 of their fellow soldiers at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009, has collected just under $300,000 of U.S. taxpayer money while he awaits his trial.

The reason Hasan has collected his full salary all this time is that Obama classified the cowardly terrorist attack as “workplace violence,” as Obama is incapable of calling it what it really is, presumably for fear of offending other terrorists.

DON BOYLES
Grand Junction

In light of ORV impact on desert, Audubon Society supports BLM plan

The board of directors of the Grand Valley Audubon Society has reviewed the BLM’s Grand Junction Area Resource Management Plan. On behalf of the nearly 500 members of GVAS, the board has voted unanimously to express support for at least as much protection as provided in the preferred alternative.

In particular, the desert north and northwest of Grand Junction is home to significantly declining populations of keystone species, including prairie dogs and their companion species, the once-common burrowing owl. This area may also harbor the last kit foxes in the local area. Careful travel management is the only tool left for curbing these declines.

Additionally, in an annual survey of long-eared owls northwest of Grand Junction, no nests were found in 2013 for the first time. Typically, at least three or four are found. Found for the first time, though, were numerous fresh Off Road Vehicle tracks in the washes in which such nests are built.  Similarly, one arroyo cavity that recently held a barn owl nest was also abandoned coincidentally with increasing ORV use.

GVAS has hosted visitors from the Front Range, other states and other countries to view these species. Hence, these declines have an economic cost, as well as a loss to our local wildlife heritage. Limiting ORV use is the only means remaining to halt or reverse these declines.


NIC KORTE, President
Grand Valley Audubon Society
Grand Junction



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