Our letters section and your opportunity to weigh in and be heard. Send us your thoughts and profundities. You can contact us here.

The case for meaningful reform

Dear Editors,

Many make the mistake of attributing all health-care cost-shifting to the uninsured. If we only insure the uninsured, runs the thinking, cost-shifting in the form of rising premiums for the insured will be ended.

Largely unaddressed is the cost shift due to the underinsured. As insurance companies guarantee their profits by shifting costs to families by moving more people into “catastrophic” or “consumer-driven” health plans with higher out-of-pocket costs, unpaid medical bills due to growing numbers of underinsured have increased over the past decade.

A 2008 study by doctors at the University of Colorado School of Medicine revealed that of those with insurance for a full year, 36.3 percent were underinsured – that is, they reported the delay or omission of recommended care because of their inability to afford it; half felt that their health suffered because they could not afford recommended care.

A 2009 study by Families USA reported that 32.4 percent of Coloradans were uninsured –  nearly one out of three people under age 65 had no health insurance all or part of the two-year period 2007-08. Combined, the numbers indicate that more than 68 percent of Coloradans are under- or uninsured.

Health-care reform has been framed by corporate and Republican interests as a gift to insurers, with mandates that require everyone to buy their product, and subsidies to increase their profits. The U.S. stands alone in propping up for-profit insurances as central to primary health care (a practice illegal in most advanced nations). Private insurers guarantee their shareholders’ profits by denying health care to their policy holders. Employer-provided coverage, too, is built on sand, as employers increasingly avoid rising costs by changing policies or shifting costs to employees.

President Obama and the Democrats have not made the best case for meaningful health care reform as a significant contributor to economic recovery. A single public-payer health-care model that ironically (unlike private insurances) permits true full choice of private providers, has demonstrated in more than 20 federal and state studies the ability to save enough money to provide comprehensive coverage for all. Instead, Democrats started with a compromise position,  promoting a largely undefined “public option,” and permitting the political right to define the terms of the debate with distortion and distraction.

Democrats should reclaim the issue and trump the debate by making Medicare buy-in their “public option.” Medicare is known and liked by most people, and its structure is in place – no need to create a whole new program at additional cost. Enlarging Medicare’s risk pool by permitting younger people to buy in on a sliding scale would improve its financial stability. Additional improvements would encompass eliminating costly subsidies to privatized Medicare Advantage plans and permitting negotiation of drug prices as is done in other countries, while improving provider reimbursement.

– Sincerely, Michele Swenson, via e-mail

Taking on the teabaggers

Dear Editors,

These self-proclaimed teabaggers (I love that name) and protesters of health-care reform are claiming that a government option would be un-democratic and socialism. It’s ridiculous. Here are some depressing statistics.

The American Journal of Public Health estimates that 45,000 deaths per year inthe United States are associated with the lack of health insurance. Half of all bankruptcies are caused by medical bills. Three-quarters of those filings are people with health insurance.Yes, WITH health insurance.WTF?! In a strong democracy, no one paying taxes should go broke keeping a loved one healthy and alive.

Private insurance bureaucracy consumes 31 percent of every health-care dollar. For Medicare, it’s 3.6 percent; for Canada’s national health insurance program, it’s 1.3 percent. The cost of a “Medicare for all” single-payer, public option has been estimated at about $1 trillion for 10 years. That’s a lot of money. But compared to the cost of the Iraq war, which could easily top $2 trillion, it seems to me like a much better value. Spend half the money saving people instead of killing them.

Watching some of these town hall meetings and protests, I’ve noticed many of the people railing against any government involvement are older than 65. Have these people stopped using their Medicare benefits? Ask your older family members and friends how they like their government-run single-payer system, which is what Medicare is. It’s not perfect and could definitely use some serious improvements. But people on Medicare aren’t going bankrupt over health-care bills. Streamlining payment through a nonprofit, single-payer system would save more than $400 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans. Think of the additional health services that can be provided once you remove profit, bonuses and advertising from the equation. Americans could expect their overall health to improve with the new availability of routine physicals and check-ups as well as access to specialists and hospital care. Sign me up. I would dump United Health Care in a nanosecond and they know it. That’s the problem – everyone might.

When 90 percent of Americans believe our health-care system needs fundamental changes or needs to be completely rebuilt and two-thirds believe the federal government should guarantee universal health care for all citizens, then I have to ask “What’s going on here? Isn’t this a democracy?!” It’s ridiculous.

– Thanks, Bill Vana, Durango


Keep Tortillas Mas Finas local

Thank you, Durango, for six great years. Tortillas Mas Finas closed its doors on Sept. 4, six years and 1 day after it was started. Not another victim of the economic “situation,” the demand for the tortillas stayed steady through troubled times.

The business was shut down due to the failing health of the two owners. The husband-and-wife team constituted the entire workforce, and other than help from

their youngest son from time to time, they were the only workforce the company has ever had. They are looking for a community based group that is trying to help others here at home and needs a way to generate income. Tortillas Mas Finas will supply equipment, recipe, methods, customers, contacts, experience and name recognition. The right group would supply a location, and labor. The owners don’t need much, and the right group can talk them into just about anything. The owners are holding out for as long as they can in order to, “keep it local.” If you believe you are the right cause, mitch@tortillasmasfinas.com.

– Mitch Schneider, Sarah Baca-Schneider, Tortillas Mas Finas


Put some heat on Tri-State

Dear Editors,

Allen Best’s Aug. 20 article, “New Energy Economies: Public Utilities Commission puts heat on Tri-State” accurately portrays Tri-State as flat on its feet in diversifying its coal-heavy portfolio. The result of Tri-State’s trivial current plans to expand beyond coal generation has again shown their lack of stewardship in a carbon-constrained world, as well as their inability to see that renewables and efficiency are the more risk-averse investment for their members.Investment in renewable development would generate good jobs and would support our state and local economies.

The PUC will soon be determining whether or not to review Tri-State’s future resource plans. This review would help ensure Tri-State is planning adequate sources of clean energy, energy conservation and energy efficiency to reduce its coal dependency. We urge you to continue to editorialize in favor of bringing greater transparency, accountability and diversification to Tri-States energy choices by increasing PUC oversight of Tri-State.

– Riley Neugebauer, The Durango Youth Coalition



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows