Summit Daily letters: Problem-solving courts, a modern approach to justice
October 17, 2016
Problem-solving courts, a modern approach to justice
As a community we need to celebrate our success stories and raise awareness in order to have even greater success. One big success story is the stories of each and every person who has had the privilege of graduating from our drug and DUI problem-solving courts, and receiving the compassion and helping hand of all those involved in the programs. The Honorable Judge Romeo of Summit, Judge Sullivan of Eagle and Judge Shamis of Lake County are our champions of success.
In support of their various programs I would like to thank our problem-solving courts for greatly reducing the rate of recidivism. Our community is in debt to every person that makes the programs a success. Due to the efforts, time, compassion, love and understanding of all those involved, our children, husband, neighbor and wife have been given a helping hand and a second chance in life.
Let us as a community show respect and compassion to those in need in an effort to have the resources to fully and effectively prosecuting those that pose a serious threat to our safety and security.
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On Amendment 69, we can't vote yet and hope for the best
I would like to share some concerns I have with Amendment 69. We moved to Summit County 20 years ago and before that I was a practicing pharmacist owning a successful independent pharmacy. Deductibles and co-pays were a reality for my sustainability as a pharmacy owner, and, therefore, I was keenly aware of any variations that would affect my profitability. In dealing with insurance plans I was always aware of what the plan was saying and what the plan wasn't saying. It is the lack of language that initially concerned me with Amendment 69. There is no language concerning co-pay expense, no requirement for physician participation, no mention of medical education requirements for the Board of Trustees membership, and no language concerning medical specialists when needed. What are we voting for on Nov. 8? We are voting for the formation of a statewide co-op health care system, a transitional operating fund tax of 0.9 percent, a 10 percent state income tax, and an appointed board to create the infrastructure until an elected board is established. This appointed board will set the direction and guidance for the co-op. Moreover, a yes vote will allow the formation of the co-op at a future date and everything else today is conjecture. The appointed board will decide how it will work, when it will work, and where it will work. Vote yes and hope for the best. This seems to resonate the methodology used for voting in the Affordable Care Act. It would seem we need more information up front.
It would seem that the appointed and elected boards should include physicians when medical decisions are being made. However, there is no language reflecting physician participation on the board. Who would be setting the standard for medical care and services within this co-op? Another question would be what governed body has oversight of the board? The appointed board and elected board in the future will be responsible for governing the co-op and themselves including their salaries. Politically this raises the question if this board will eventually reflect a strong partisan component, which will be determining health care. Again, it would seem we need more information up front.
As a senior citizen living on a fixed income, the burden of justifying an addition 10 percent state income tax is hard to accept. The board at a future date will determine the financial impact on the Medicare beneficiaries. To date, the seniors I have talked to perceive this as a real disadvantage reflecting an additional cost. Again, it would seem we need more information up front.
I truly believe we need reform in our current health care system, but I also believe that this should be done legislatively on a national level, not as an amendment to our state constitution. There is justification of a yes vote for the common good, but there are too many unanswered questions and not enough substance to justify this vote. Amendment 69 could be a good starting place to open a discussion.
ColoradoCare will work
The arguments of the opponents of Amendment 69 have a common theme: that a single payer scheme, like those that work all over the developed world, will have catastrophic consequences here. The opponents don't consider the immediate benefits we will see. Or compare ColoradoCare to what we can expect staying with the current system.
Let's start with the $25 billion tax. It's a very big number. But it pales in comparison to the $30 billion we are currently spending for health insurance premiums alone. And since it is a tax, the amount will be deductible for all of us who itemize, not just those who meet the 7 percent deductible for itemizing health care costs. So Coloradans save more than $5 billion up front.
Next, that "unaccountable" board who have no health care experience. Well, we can elect people with health care experience if we want. The board will have a personal incentive to make sure the plan works for everyone, because they and their loved ones will have that plan. The folks who run our health insurance companies now are accountable to their shareholders and over-paid executives, not the people they insure. The ones making the decisions about coverage are not trained in health care. Once, after many appeals to my insurance company, I finally got past the clerical employees with their scripts and tables of what to deny, and reached a nurse practitioner. She let slip that the treatment I wanted covered was both necessary and reasonable. But her hands were tied: the decision had been made by the non-medical people who wrote the scripts and tables for what they wouldn't cover it. While one has to admit that there may be treatments not covered by ColoradoCare, can that really be any worse than what our insurance companies are refusing to cover now?
One writer to the Summit Daily said she would not want to lose her insurance coverage, because she was able to go out of state to see the "best" provider. She said she would not be alive without it. I am really glad for her. In my HMO days, I would not have been allowed to do that. When I needed a specialist in Colorado, my HMO gave me two choices, one in Denver and one in Louisville. The one I saw was certainly not the "best." In my PPO days, it's not clear I would have been able to afford to go out of network. And for those of us with no insurance, her diagnosis would have been an automatic death sentence. At least with Colorado Cares, we would all get treatment in the state.
It is stated as a given by the opponents that we would lose health care providers to other states where they can make more money. What they don't consider is how many providers who don't want to deal with the insurance companies will come here to take their place. I lost one of my best providers when he pulled out of all insurance networks. Another of my providers stopped working with specific insurance companies, fortunately for me not including mine. Which providers do you want — the ones who are in it for the money, or the ones who want to treat patients as they see fit without the paperwork burden and interference from insurance companies?
The opponents state that Colorado will be flooded by people from surrounding states coming to get free care. It didn't happen when we expanded Medicaid while the surrounding stated didn't. There are provisions in Colorado Cares to prevent it happening.
There is concern that the cost of Colorado Cares may go up in the future and the tax will have to be raised. Maybe so. But the scary figures quoted for this, even if they are to be believed (and there is significant disagreement on that), are much less than the premium increases we are already seeing from the insurance companies. We currently spend about 17 percent of GDP for health care in the US, and it's still rising. We can go up quite a lot from 10 percent of payroll in Colorado and still save a lot of money.
Next, let's look at that 10 percent tax on non-wage income. This has been called especially egregious for seniors. Well, the first $23,000 of retirement income ($46,000 for a couple) is exempt. Next, seniors will no longer need medicare supplemental policies. Then, they will no longer have to pay deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance. Then, the drug doughnut hole goes away. So that 10 percent is really much smaller. When I ran the numbers for my husband and me, it costs us about 3 percent, nowhere near 10 percent. And many seniors will pay even less.
But suppose you are not a senior, that you are self-employed and have to pay the full 10 percent yourself. That's a lot less than you would pay for private insurance. Maybe, unlike most of us, you are fortunate to be covered on someone else's policy. Who is paying for the additional cost of that person's policy? For most of us, it's the person who has that coverage, not the company that provides it. If you're getting it for free, good for you. The rest of us wish we had your good fortune.
I own a small business in Summit County, and like my competitors, I do not offer health insurance coverage. Some of my employees have private insurance, some have coverage on the ACA exchange, and most have no coverage at all. Insurance for my employees under the current system would be far more than the 6 2/3 percent payroll tax. Under Colorado Cares, I would no longer have to pay the medical part of my worker's comp coverage. With this saving, my cost would be about 4 percent of payroll, not 6 2/3 percent, and it would be a deductible business expense. I would not only have healthier employees, I would have healthier customers who would spend more money at my business. Also, I would no longer have to worry about my employees finding covered providers. I wonder how many other business owners received the letter I did from my worker's comp company, the one that said that since they had not been able to negotiate a contract, they would no longer cover treatment from St. Anthony's or High Country Health Care. Doesn't leave many choices.
Let's look at who is providing the money for the opposition ads against Amendment 69. It is insurance companies, who would lose market share, and pharmaceutical companies, who are afraid ColoradoCare will negotiate lower prices for their drugs. These are not disinterested parties. They have a vested interest in seeing the amendment defeated. That makes everything they say suspect.
A group of doctors recently wrote to the Summit Daily that they would like to work with proponents of Amendment 69 to come up with better solutions. I've heard lots of people say that they want better solutions. What I haven't heard is what they are. Will they be any better than Amendment 69? Will they cover everyone? How will they be paid for? Will they eliminate the insurance company exclusions? Will they end restricted provider networks? Will they lower insurance premiums, or health care costs? And how long will we have to wait for it? I for one am tired of waiting for "better" solutions that never come.
I urge you to vote yes on Amendment 69.
The Poop Fairy is dead
Most of the Summit Daily News's letters for Views are regarding the 2016 elections, but I'd like to present something different (or, maybe not). Several days ago I noticed a blue plastic pet waste disposal bag (poop bag) placed on top of a Summit Daily News media box. Initially I thought, "Is someone making a statement about the SDN?" I don't think so — else the poop would be loose instead of in the bag. Then I wondered, "Did the SDN have an article informing pet owners to dispose of their poop bags by simply placing them on top of a SDN media box so that the paper delivery person will take it away and dispose of it for you?" I don't think so. Although that person may do so out of kindness, he nor she is not the Poop Fairy.
So it goes back to a problem many of us see all of the time. Poop bags being left along trails, trail heads, roads, recreation paths, etc. Those bags continue to accumulate and add more unsightly trash to the land. It is a pathetic and emerging problem around Breckenridge, Summit County, the state and nation. Who is supposed to pick up those bags? It's not the job of the SDN nor anyone else who isn't the pet owner. The Poop Fairy is dead, people! So dear pet owners — please carry away your poop bags! Thank you.
Douglas J. Trieste
Now is the time for third parties — but not yet.
We've been exposed to a year of campaigning by a collection of mostly inadequate political poseurs, a raucous primary season that succeeded only in eliminating the better candidates, two embarrassing debates that had the intellectual honesty of a playground argument and an onslaught of ads that make Mad Men cringe at their disingenuousness. We've never had more proof that it's time to abandon the two-party system and it was provided by the two parties themselves! Our country will be saddled with such substandard leaders until we have a wider choice and a fairer way to nominate them.
Donald Trump is a disgrace as a candidate and human being. There's no need to list the dozens of insults, missteps, poor decisions and threats he has made. His financial and foreign policy positions are impossible and/or dangerous to implement. His promises of tax cuts and free programs will bankrupt the country and allow the wealthiest in America to hoard even more of our resources. The next president will probably nominate two to four Supreme Court justices. Given Trump's record, imagine the quality of his choices.
So, as much as we need to revamp our political system, now is not the time to look to a third party. A vote for anyone other than Hilary Clinton is a vote for Trump. Going Libertarian or Green, or not voting because your favorite candidate was not on the ticket, is understandable in this political environment. But imagine waking up on Nov. 9 and being informed Trump has been elected our president, especially if it happens by a small margin. Sometimes principal must be outweighed by reality. True, voting for the lesser of two evils still results in evil, but it's better than allowing the greatest evil to triumph.
So let's elect Hilary Clinton. Secure the Supreme Court, protect the middle class, avoid war and save the national budget. We'll have four years to build a movement to give us more freedom to choose our leaders and guarantee we won't have this dilemma again.
Karn for county commissioner
If a business has an employee who works hard and does a good job, they don't replace them just for the sake of making a change.
You, the voters of Summit County, have an employee who has worked incredibly hard for almost eight years and has a very long string of accomplishments. Her name is Karn Stiegelmeier.
Karn's work ethic is beyond reproach. She does her homework, often staying up late to be prepared for meetings the next day. She represents Summit County at meetings all over the State of Colorado. She listens to all sides of every issue, and makes decisions based upon what is best for Summit County.
Karn is a true fiscal conservative, having trimmed and balanced the Summit County budget as one of her first tasks upon taking office. She has also worked tirelessly to protect our beautiful environment, while also working to improve the economic climate of Summit County.
Don't be fooled by arguments based on partisan politics. You will never have a more dedicated, hard working, or balanced county commissioner. I know this firsthand, because I am her husband.
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