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Sound of wheels spinning on Camano roads  is tax dollars not working

  • By Stuart Heady Camano Island   Jan 16, 2018

Dear Editor: The snow-jam hill-slide debacle of Christmas Eve 2017 should not be forgotten. Camano Island is essentially a suburb full of intelligent people who work hard and pay taxes. But they don't get back from Island County government service in equal measure.

The county maintenance yard happens to be at the foot of Camano Hill Road, and the weather forecast gave advance warning of snow on Christmas Eve. Obviously this would be a time when people were out trying to get home or to relatives' houses, to gatherings, perhaps churches. Trucks should have been out with grit and salt ahead of the anticipated snowstorm.

An exact number may never be known, but several dozen cars lost traction on the steep east side of Camano Hill Road and Monticello and had to be abandoned. People walked out, perhaps a couple of miles through snow, some with children, like refugees in a scene out of Doctor Zhivago.

Camano Island has not had a resident serving as its representative on the County Board of Commissioners in a long time because Camano Islanders get outvoted slightly by citizens over on Whidbey. In the last county election, it was by only about 10 votes per precinct on Camano.

This is why, in terms of attention paid to Camano resident concerns by local government, tax dollars go over across the moat to Coupeville, but don't necessarily come back. The sound of wheels spinning on ice and losing traction is the sound of Camano Island tax dollars not working.

 

Guest commentary by David Muga published in the Stanwood Camano Newspaper 11/7/17, page A4

Money, greed needs to be taken out of healthcare decisions.

Rep. Rick Larsen‘s views on healthcare are sadly too limited for the 21st Century. Here's why. Having attended the public meeting in Stanwood that Rick Larsen held on Saturday, October 14 at the Striv Coffee Shop we unfortunately came away with the view that Rick Larsen‘s stance on healthcare is far too limited for the current aspirations of not only our local citizenry but of the American population in general.

We look at the members of Congress as representing our most intimate interests which for many of us in Stanwood and Camano has to do with healthcare and  maintenance of our day-to-day wellbeing.

But the views expressed by Rick Larsen at the question-response meeting were far too circumscribed, narrow, and restrained. His basic idea is to defend the most limited, current notions of the ACA, apparently assuming the establishment and flourishment of a comprehensive, efficient single payer health care system is too big of a bite for a conservative citizenry.  Fighting a retrograde movement by President Trump and the Republican party to  “repeal and replace“ the whole framework of OBAMACARE,  we need only to point out that while Rick Larsen waxes brilliantly on the benefits of healthcare as it is distributed to veterans, military personal and low income children (CHIPS), he is apparently unable to see how all these different existing socialized sectors of healthcare in the US could be packaged together in a system of healthcare for all under a Single Payer Model.

As noted, we already have single payer health care working in various sectors of society. Additionally,  many public employees as well as private employees who work for companies receiving contracts funded by taxpayer money in fact receive healthcare subsidized by the public as part of their salaries.

What we need now is to move forward and provide a unified package of healthcare delivery to the entire citizenry of our society rather than being stumped on a simple defense of the first stage of the ACA under the guise that a generalized version of Obamacare as a Single Payer model is either too costly, too inefficient, too bureaucratic, too centralized, too large wait-times for their health needs, or some ungodly combination of the above. 

It must at once be pointed out the cost of such a single payer healthcare system is already being paid by the taxpayer by way of:  1) their insurance premiums; 2) their  out of pocket co-pays and deductibles and, 3) the costs associated with additional catastrophic or “donut insurance“.  As a thought exercise,  we would encourage everyone to compute their own yearly family income and calculate the percentage that goes to annual healthcare premiums and out of pocket costs and draw the relevant conclusion.  Thus, anyone who has out-of-pocket healthcare and premium costs or receives subsidized premium costs through their workplace salary reductions is already paying  taxes for their current healthcare, if they have one at all.  And this is for a current health care system which is fragmented, confusing, costly and unpredictable for the average healthcare consumer.

 Currently, the Commonwealth Fund estimates that 25% of health care costs are driven by administrative costs, including exorbitant CEO salaries. http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/in-the-literature/2014/sep/hospital-administrative-costs). This does not include corruption levels or gender discrimination that add to these costs.  According to the financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, 113 heads of 70 of the largest U.S. health care companies have earned $9.8 billion since the ACA was first enacted and only four of the 113 CEO‘s were women. (http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/07/26/539518682/as-cost-of-u-s-health-care-skyrockets-so-does-pay-of-health-care-CEOs).    In addition, the top six health insurance companies have reported 6 billion in adjusted profits for the 2nd quarter of 2017, an increase of 29% from the second quarter of 2016. ( https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/05/top-health-insurers-profit-surge-29-percent-to-6-billion-dollars.html).   All of this while the common citizenry worries about potential premium hikes as the chaos in Congress over healthcare continues.

So why are our Congresspeople like Rick Larsen unable to support Singlepayer?  Perhaps there is a relationship to the amount of money they receive from the  healthcare insurance industry and the pharmaceutical companies.    

Lest we consider this to be a singular problem with the democrats, be aware that of the  top 20 receivers of money from the health insurance industry, 16 were republican (with Marco Rubio and  Paul Ryan being the top Senators receiving funds in 2016).  As for Rick Larsen, he has received donations from both healthcare and insurance industries as has each of the members of our WA State delegation (https://www.opensecrets.org). This raises the question: for  whom are our legislators working, the insurance and for-profit health care companies or their citizen constituents?

It is far past time for our congressional representatives to have the courage and moral fiber to listen to their constituents and move beyond their own limited, political career horizons.  No doubt about it, at its core, capitalism and its political practice is about money and greed; if we cannot get rid of capitalism, then we should at least get rid of the impact of money and greed in our political system and refuse to allow the fox to guard the henhouse.

 

Submitted by:  David Muga

Guest commentary: We must stop this assault on Medicare

  • By Andrea Vaughan 

  •  

    • printed in Stanwood Camano Newspaper Sep 27, 2017

Many people are unaware of this, but buried within the new Republican Budget Bill are plans to diminish the benefits of Medicare for millions of seniors and future seniors forever.

This bill would steal almost $500 billion from the Medicare fund and also raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67. These benefit cuts are in the same bill that gives huge tax breaks to the wealthy.

The results of these Medicare cuts could be devastating to the average person. Those expecting to retire at 65 may have to delay their plans in order to avoid the huge health insurance premiums that private insurance would be happy to charge those ages 65 and 66.

The $500 billion that will be stolen from the Medicare fund (money that we have all paid in taxes from our paychecks all of our working lives) could be just enough to weaken the system so that in a few years Paul Ryan could realize his dream of privatizing Medicare and turning it into a voucher system.

Under this system, you would be given a voucher for each procedure and if that voucher doesn't cover the cost, then you must pay the difference. Or, the Republicans could do what Reagan did in the ’80s and decrease the percentage Medicare will pay.

Before Reagan, Medicare paid 100 percent. Since Reagan, it only pays 80 percent and seniors are stuck paying huge premiums for Medigap plans to pay for the extra 20 percent or they must enroll in Medicare Advantage plans, which are cheaper but have networks that do not always cover your doctor. Of the Advantage plans available in Island County, none include SCCA (Seattle Cancer Care Alliance), the highest-rated cancer treatment center in Seattle.

Republicans could use the weakened system as an excuse to cut what Medicare pays to 60 percent or less. That would mean that the approximately $370 per month that a senior now pays for Medicare part B, a drug plan and a Medigap plan F policy could be doubled!

This bill has already passed the House. The Senate is expected to vote on it by Oct. 19. If you agree that these changes to Medicare are unfair, you can take several actions. Call your senators and tell them to vote no. Call Republican senators from other states (such as Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and John McCain who all voted no on the draconian healthcare bill) and tell them to vote no. On Facebook, post your comments on these senators’ pages. Also on Facebook re-post reports of this in order to get the word out to your friends.

The mainstream news media is too busy talking about kneeling football players and whether or not Rex Tillerson called his boss a moron to cover a bill that would damage healthcare and retirement for every single American. So, it is our job to spread the word by Oct. 19 when the Senate votes. We must stop this!

Andrea Vaughan is a resident of Camano Island.

 

 

8/8/2017 Stanwood Camano Newspaper

Dear Editor: It was a beautiful summer day at the home of Basil Badley and Mary Margaret Haugen when 90-100 caring community members showed up to support the Stanwood Camano Food Bank Kid's Backpack Program.

The Camano Island Democrats sponsored a barbecue to support this important effort to make sure we have no hungry children in our community. Lynne Ayers reported the program is now serving over 175 children a week this summer, providing them three kid-friendly, nutritious meals a day. They have served over 14,000 meals so far this summer.

Lynne shared how parents are grateful for the multiple pick up sites, including Elger Bay Grocery and Stanwood Camano Community Resource Center, which are easily accessible for busy parents, some of whom work two jobs to try and make ends meet. And that is what these meals do, help make ends meet for our working poor and needy families.

Camano Island Democrats raised over $2,000 for the food bank because hunger doesn't recognize party lines and together we can all support our kids. Whidbey Island friends from Island County Democrats also showed up in force for this event.

Janet St. Clair and I want to thank everyone who showed up to donate and especially the team who put together this great fundraiser, including our volunteer musicians, Gary Kanter & Friends, who played for guests all afternoon.

John Amell

Camano Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6/12/17 Stanwood Camano Newspaper

To The Editor:

The current debate around an efficient, comprehensive and effective health care delivery system comes down to two stark choices: a market-driven healthcare business model coupled with a private insurance system and a single-payer system accountable to the citizenry at large rather than to shareholders and profit goals and based on human needs rather than market share.

 

On the one hand, a market- driven system is most often associated with increased competition between private medical/insurance practitioners in such a way that the competitive framework drives down overall prices, at least in theory.  However, there are a t least three major weaknesses to this idea:

 

  • Health insurers tend to maximize sales to individuals who they assess will pay more in premiums than they cost in care and, thus, are able to limit the amount they pay out in claims for the care which they provide and thus meet their profit goals;

  • The selective design of excluding costly patients can be and is often enhanced by limiting the availability of medical specialists, cancer treatment centers, appropriate medical facilities or all in combination in certain markets which effectively limits competition and raises prices, thereby raisingprofit margins; and

  • By offloading costly patient enrollees in their respective market-based systems, the private business model of health delivery makes it virtually impossible for ANY public option to health care to remain viable since these latter public options (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid, or public elements of the Affordable Care Act) are held hostage to the most costly, the most sick, and the most impoverished elements of the population.

 

On the other hand, there is a very disingenuous argument often used against public options to health care which focuses on how to pay for care for all who need it rather than for all who can afford it.  The answer of course is that we are already paying for it but we are simply not receiving the care which our tax dollars are paying for.  For instance, we are already paying for such costs through shareholder dividends, marketing costs, lack of uniformity in billing processing, multifold administrative complexities and systems, excessive executive compensation, and unholy profits.  It is for this reason that healthcare cost in the U.S. is the highest of any of the other thirty-four OECD countries.

 

A single-payer, public health care system can take advantage of administrative savings, capital investments that address medically underserved populations and health disparities that are related to race, ethnicity, income or geographic region, bulk purchasing of health products, and can work to cap physician and medical procedure compensation as well as to eliminate patient cost sharing in the form of “out-of-pocket” costs.  Finally, the implementation of a single-payer system such as, for instance, a Medicare-For-All system which is built out of a continuous improvement of the Affordable Care Act , could begin the long march toward a system based on primary care for everyone (care continuity over time, coordination of care, whole-person focus, neighborhood place of care) which has been shown to lead to better overall care (http://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2011.665).  The political will to do this of course will require a shift from a view of health care as a privilege to a view of health care as a fundamental right.

 

submitted by David Muga