Letters for April 10, 2008

Fallacy in our insurance system
Re: “Live free, or die” (Cover story, by Emily Brannen, CN&R, April 3):

This is a very good article with some very good insight that doesn’t get mentioned in most health-care debates. Note that employers have long used the enticement/threat of health insurance to lock people into fear of losing their jobs. With a move imminent, I’m already planning on how to responsibly pay for my health care.

You’ve exposed the fallacy in the system. Insurance is a gamble, and it is supposed to be. One pays a smaller amount to offset the cost of what one hopes will never happen: a catastrophic illness or injury that would wipe one out financially. But the fallacy is thinking it is supposed to pay for routine maintenance and minor incidents, which of course it can’t, so we all end up paying outrageously expensive premiums.

I suggest we make employers give back the money spent on health care to the employees and allow people to deduct 100 percent of health-care expenses from their taxable income. It won’t pay for the poorest—they will still need assistance—but it will keep a majority of Americans from becoming that poor.

For that majority, a truly free economic system of health care will empower them to bring costs in line with demand. Again, for a minority, we will still need to provide assistance; perhaps it will be easier for us to give when we feel we can reasonably afford health-care costs for ourselves.

Jody Leavell
Nashville, Tenn.

Health-care balance sheet
Re: “The elephant in the exam room” (Guest Comment, by Aldebra Schroll, CN&R, April 3):

Although socialism has been stigmatized by the greedy elite, the fact is we have always had social programs that are paid for by the government. The überwealthy from both political parties have fleeced enough of our money to never need social services, and they do a great job of keeping single-payer solutions off the table of potential remedies for our health-care collapse.

The federal government’s General Accounting Office has determined that 40 percent of the American health-care budget goes to insurance companies whose job it is to deny services in an effort to serve the corporate profit mantra. Nearly half of our heath-care dollars go to a corporate institution that provides no health care. The system that is supposed to be healing us is hemorrhaging from too many wounds for any of the Band-Aid therapies being considered by either political party.

I work in the health-care industry, and we are approaching a paperwork stalemate whereby we will only have time to document what service we would have provided had we actually had the time to provide a service. This isn’t some weird coincidence. Insurance companies do not pay for paperwork, so if they can keep us buried, they will have to pay for nothing.

It’s time to sic the dogs on the elephant.

Don Fultz

‘Elephant’ is us
In her commentary last week, Dr. Aldebra Schroll claims “the insurance industry is the elephant sitting between my patients and me” per its prohibitive costs and bureaucratic restrictions. But behind that one are other, larger elephants: advances in medical technology, which entail more extensive and expensive treatment protocols; astronomical medical malpractice tort awards, which drastically raise insurance rates; and, the biggest of all, demographics.

Today, two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, mostly as a result of poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles. Apart from other health issues such as substance abuse, this will become an overwhelming health crisis in the coming decades. For instance, rates for diabetes, heart disease, strokes and cancer will skyrocket.

No conceivable health-care system on Earth, socialist or capitalist, will be capable of responding to the tidal wave of need sweeping over it in coming years.

Therefore, each of us needs to take more responsibility for our personal health by, say, exercising more, eating less, and acquiring rudimentary medical knowledge on our own. Perhaps we should also explore and develop alternative medical information and treatment networks outside the current paradigm, beyond the sphere of insurance companies, tort lawyers, and traditional clinics/hospitals.

But whatever we do, the days we can depend on current health-care institutions, both private and public, are numbered.

H.C. Jamieson

Woodsy would approve
Re: “Give a hoot …” (Editorial, CN&R, April 3):

Some things to consider regarding wood burning and particulate air pollution in Chico: Burning natural gas also generates particulates hazardous to health; it also produces more ozone, nitrogen oxides and sulfuric acid vapor, which are just as damaging to health as particulates, than burning wood.

Also, natural gas is nonrenewable and is increasingly imported from countries ruled by America-haters. Heating with natural gas is twice as costly as heating with wood.

Instead of arbitrarily banning wood burning, there should be tax credits for equipping wood stoves and fireplaces with precipitators, at a few hundred dollars per installation. The state of California should provide the credits through a program similar to the one for solar panels, and a reasonable time should be allowed for the conversions.

In a part of the country where we have a resource so readily renewed by the weedy growth of native oaks, the replanting cycle of almond orchards and the byproducts of timber operations, it is absurd to deny use of this resource when it is so easy and inexpensive to deal with the problem.

Chad Wozniak

Smoke screen?
We have been told through all forms of local media that Chico has the third-worst air in the state. OK. Compared to what? Who has the first- and second-worst air in the state?

Was this a category of cities with similar populations or were we compared to Los Angeles and Fresno? The parameters for the survey have yet to be mentioned. Why?

I find it hard to believe that there are only two cities in the state with air worse than ours. There are dozens of cities in Southern California that I can visually tell (of course I am not a scientist) have poorer air quality then we do in Chico.

I think what we have here is the truth being stretched really far to scare people into supporting new regulations. I hope you will consider sharing the entire report with readers and allow us to make our own conclusions. My first question would be: “Who funded this research?” Energy-efficient stove manufacturers maybe? Just a thought.

Colleen Aguiar

Editor’s note: The report came from the Environmental Protection Agency. It ranked the average particulate-matter levels in the Butte County Air Quality Management District third in the state behind the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast districts. Comparing measurements taken inside cities themselves, Chico is the state’s ninth-worst city.

Grow smartly
Several members of the public brought up the concept of “smart growth” at the March 27 Butte County General Plan meeting. That term has very specific principles that are crucial to many planning and environmental organizations.

We must encourage the public and planners to address dwindling natural resources—including open space, clean air and needed water—while making communities more people friendly and attractive. Basic principles include:

• Allowing for different kinds of housing types for our diverse population. This should include affordable housing.

• Creating neighborhoods where people can safely and comfortably walk or ride bicycles.

• Increasing the amount and kinds of people and organizations making decisions about how our neighborhoods and communities develop.

• Ensuring that our communities are attractive and unique. That would mean preserving historically unique buildings, discouraging “big box” stores and decreasing our highway/parking lot culture.

• Planning for mixed, not separated, uses of land. For example, walkable communities might include small industry, houses, stores with apartments above, schools and parks.

• Ensuring environmental protections. We must add a “water element” to the general plan being developed.

• Providing more mass transit, pedestrian paths and well-planned bike lanes.

• Improving existing communities, rather than spending money on building new communities.

• Making residential, commercial and public buildings more energy- and space-efficient, and thus more sustainable for ourselves and future generations.

Check www.SmartGrowth.org to see more examples and why we must further them!

Grace M. MarvinSierra Club Yahi Group

Hate in debate
The proposed Federal Uniting American Families Act would provide for the immigration of the foreign partner of a domestic partnership as is allowed for other couples.

Immigration is a hot topic, and it is even more controversial when it involves gays. Sadly, the debate becomes fueled by hatred, with officials joining in on the hate speech.

For example, Oklahoma Sen. Sally Kern says that gays are infiltrating city councils and that this is a greater threat to the United States than terrorism and Islam. As a so-called “infiltrator,” I can state that I was not elected because of my sexual orientation.

Peter Sprigg, director of the Family Resource Council, says that gays should be rounded up and deported. I like to travel in foreign countries and do so often. But to be forced to live in a foreign country against my will and removed from my country that I love seems to approach a Holocaust.

The country that I love defends freedom of speech, so people are entitled to their opinions. I would put forth that regardless of whether the Uniting American Families Act is a good idea, I find it hateful that the people who oppose it would deny me elected office or deport me from the country where I was born. In my humble opinion, that’s un-American.

Scott Gruendl

Clean the House
According to a CNN poll taken March 19, 66 percent of Americans responded that we should pull out of Iraq. In another CNN poll taken across several states, around 80 percent of Americans believe “Congress should shift money from farm subsidies to conservation efforts.”

The war in Iraq is a battle that we should never have begun and we will never win. The fight to save our rapidly diminishing ecosystems is a battle we can win—and a battle worth fighting.

In the most recent farm bill, Congressman Wally Herger voted to cut spending on conservation and continue to subsidize corn and soybean farmers. The subsidies come at a time when farm profits have reached historic levels and remaining wildlife habitat is being threatened by the pressure to produce more grain for food and ethanol.

This, plus his continued support of the misguided war in Iraq, proves once again that our congressman is out of touch with the desires of his constituents.

Mr. Herger rode into Washington in 1984 on the coattails of Ronald Reagan. It is time for him to quietly ride into the sunset on the coattails of George W. Bush.

Dan Gordon

Speaking of Wally …
A new G.I. Bill, H.R.2702, is working its way through Congress. This bill will bring present-day benefits to our veterans, helping them cope with the challenges they face reconnecting with society.

Unfortunately, Congressman Wally Herger has chosen not to support this bill, keeping in lock-step with the Bush administration, which also doesn’t support it, reasoning that the prospect of being afforded a college education will compel one to leave the military. Herger’s staff informed me he supports that reasoning.

Our occupation of Iraq is costing taxpayers $2 billion every five days, which Herger supports—yet when it comes to supporting our veterans, $2 billion a year is too costly. He owes a better explanation to his constituents for turning his back on America’s troops.

Roger S. Beadle

Gold-medal question
The propaganda drums are being beaten again as a precursor to the Olympics. This time, Tibet is the issue and the demand [is] that China withdraw from there.

Of course, they have no business occupying that country, which begs the question: What are we doing in Iraq?

Joe Bahlke
Red Bluff