Another voice: Support new health care legislation

March 16, 2011

By IAN STROMQUIST

Rep. Mark Johnson and Sen. Charles William Thomsen: Please support HB 3510 and SB 888; Oregon's Single Payer Health Care Bills. This new law will lead to cost reductions across the health care industry as well as dramatically reduce employee and employer medical premiums.

It will also improve the economy and create jobs because low-income employees will have more take-home pay, thus spending more money in the local economies.

Finally, it will consolidate risk into one pool leading to progressively lower premiums (and taxes) over time.

Yes, this bill will likely introduce new taxes to Oregonians. However, it will eliminate incredibly expensive medical premiums which a majority of skilled employees and their employers pay monthly. Low-income (and low-skilled) Oregonians who don't currently have employer-provided health benefits will neither see an increase in cost nor a loss of health benefit because the new system will be funded by progressive taxes and fees (based on income and ability to pay).

Currently, to insure my family (two adults, two children) with my employer-provided health program, our health premiums total $1,561.81 monthly of which I am scheduled to pay 20 percent (once the new contract is adopted). That totals $18,741.72 annually.

Even after that, my out-of-pocket medical bills, after the birth of my daughter in October, totaled more than $3,000 in 2010. I would much rather have that income directly, both bumping me into a higher tax bracket and then raise my taxes, to fund a single-payer system.

Wouldn't it be prudent for all citizens to pool their resources into one health pool? Through an economy of scale, costs would be reduced (I'm not even including the elimination of the profit skimming by for-profit insurance companies).

We don't build roads with individual transportation contractors who are contracted by individual families and employers. Nor do we collect garbage using individual garbage removal plans. It is prudent for the public to pool their resources and strive for equitable and affective services.

In general, whenever a service (like garbage collection) is utilized by all citizens in a community, the service is adopted by society and provided at an equitable cost to all (without discrimination based on location or circumstance).

Stamps don't cost more if you live far from a post office. Electricity costs the same whether you live next to Bonneville Dam or in Salem. Health care is something we all access eventually. All I'm asking for is a little efficiency and equitable access.

I believe that I have already made a strong argument. I need not pull at your heart-strings and tell you about the families that have lost their homes and livelihoods due to medical-bill-bankruptcies. Nor, do I need to remind you of the poor service the under- and uninsured receive when they attempt to access medical care.

Nor do I need to remind you that doctors set up monthly quotas for Medicaid patients they see (then telling them to go to the ER once they have met their quotas). Nor do I have to tell you that my health premiums (and yours) are filled with the hidden costs of the under- and uninsured.

If you are worried about a "Big-Brother" Oregon Health Authority setting up "death panels," turn your brain back on and lay off the Kool-Aid. The system would be under the control of the public it serves. We would receive the system that we want (or at least deserve - based on the elected representatives we send to Salem).

Similar systems work very effectively in Canada (where I am from) and many other countries around the world. Are we not entitled to the best system our shared resources can afford?

Please support HB 3510 and SB 888. It will be good for Oregonians - who will become a "beacon of light" for the rest of the country.

Ian Stromquist lives in Hood River.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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