Archive for July, 2009

The cost of not reforming health care

kennedy-ted1

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who is responsible for the Children's Health Insurance Program, portable insurance, the Americans With Disabilities Act and other health care legislation, has fought throughout his career for comprehensive health care reform. Image from www.donkeydish.com.

We’ve been hearing quite a bit lately about how much health care reform will cost if it is enacted. But the truth is, the current system is costing us far too much — in money, poor health and lives lost.

In this week’s Newsweek cover story, Sen. Edward Kennedy, who has done more to improve health care for Americans than any public leader has in the past half century, writes in “The Cause of My Life” that not only have health care costs skyrocketed, but health care premiums alone have more than doubled in the past 10 years, from $6,000 a year in 1999 to nearly $13,000 this year. As a result, at least 47 million Americans don’t have health insurance now, most of them because they can’t afford it.

“If we don’t reform the system, if we leave things as they are, health care inflation will cost far more over the next decade than health care reform,” he writes. “We will pay far more for far less — with millions more Americans uninsured or underinsured.”

To read the full article, go to http://www.newsweek.com/id/207406

Also, the Web site of Sojourners, the progressive evangelical Christian magazine, has a good article by Mary Nelson on the personal cost of not reforming health care.  Visit www.sojourners.com and click on “Health-Care Reform is a Life and Death Issue.” Also, on Sojourners, you may read “A Christian Creed on Health-Care Reform.”

Coin of the realm (the not-so-new penny)

Why are British pennies turning up in Winchester?

The "new penny" designation on the decimal coin was changed to "one penny" in 1982.

The "new penny" designation on the decimal coin was changed to "one penny" in 1982.

One day this week I was walking down Court Street to JK’s Cafe when I spotted a shiny copper coin on the sidewalk. I noticed it had Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait, so I bent down to pick it up, thinking it was a Canadian cent.
But it wasn’t a cent, it was a penny. A British “new penny,” to be  precise.
That was strange because it was the second time in a few months that I’ve stumbled upon one of these coins of the realm. The other one I had noticed in my change when I went to pay for a cup of coffee at McDonald’s.

The 1967

1967 was the last year Britain minted the old penny, which was several times larger than the current decimal penny and dated back to the ancient Roman Empire. There were 240 of these to a pound, the English dollar.

The coin is called a new penny to distinguish it from the former penny, a jar-lid-sized copper coin that was part of the old pounds, shillings, pence system, which dated back to the time of the Roman Empire and was replaced in 1967 with the current decimal system.
Under the old system, there were 12 pence to a shilling and 20 shillings to a pound sterling — which must have made being a cashier or bank teller quite a challenge.
In addition to the penny and shilling, there were farthings (quarter-penny coins), halfpennies, three-pence and sixpence coins, florins (two shillings), half crowns and crowns (five to a pound) and sovereigns (one  pound).
I know all this because when I was a boy growing up in Winchester in the 1960s and 70s, I collected coins and stamps, and my specialty was coins of Great Britain and the British Empire.
It’s a hobby I would like to resume if I could find the time.
If there are any other coin collectors in or near Winchester who like British coins, I would like to meet them.
I can be reached here at Newer World, through the Winchester Sun or on Facebook.

McConnell's fear is that health care reform will work

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says that a public health insurance option might become so popular that it would essentially result in a single-payer health insurance system.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says that a public health insurance option might become so popular that it would essentially result in a single-payer health insurance system.

Of all the arguments I’ve heard against President Obama’s health care reform plan, the most original — and the one that leaves me scratching my head in disbelief — is Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s.
The Kentucky lawmaker has said time and again that he is against including an option for a public health insurance plan because he’s afraid it would be successful.
Specifically, what he’s afraid of is that if there is a government option that anyone can buy into, it would have an unfair advantage over private plans. That’s because it wouldn’t have to make a profit, and the overhead cost, like that of Medicare, would be lower, which means it would be more affordable.
Because it would cost less — and probably a good insurance plan like the one McConnell and other senators have — so many people would choose it that it would spread the risk over a huge pool of policy holders, and that could drive down costs even more — and possibly drive some private insurers out of business.
And the down side to that for Americans is — what exactly?
Would anyone other than stockholders actually weep over the loss of a cherry-picking insurance company like Golden Rule?
If the United States were to end up with a national health insurance plan because the vast majority eventually ended up choosing the public option, how would that be a bad thing?
Canada has long had a public, single-payer health insurance program that works. It costs Canadians less in taxes than Americans have to pay in private insurance premiums, and patients can choose any doctor or hospital they want, because the plan is accepted everywhere.
And Canadians don’t have to fight with private insurance companies that have an incentive to deny claims.
One reason private insurance costs so much is that companies have to employ so many people to try to keep from having to pay anybody any money. And doctors have to employ people to try to figure out what’s covered under some 1,300 private plans.
Health insurance is one of the few areas in which the private sector is far more bureaucratic, complicated and inefficient than the public sector.
There are some 47 million Americans without health insurance (8.6 million more than at the end of 2000). Health care is currently 17 percent of our gross domestic product. We spend more on health care than any other Western democracy and get less for our money. And the number of uninsured in the world’s wealthiest nation is shameful.
Republicans’ simplistic idea is to require everyone to have health insurance (as states now do for car insurance). It wouldn’t matter whether or not a person could afford it.
The GOP plan is not a solution. It would do little or nothing to control costs, improve health care or help those working people who can’t afford — or qualify for — private insurance, but are not poor enough to get on Medicaid.
The time for comprehensive health care reform is now.
This is the best opportunity the United States has had since the 1940s to do what the rest of the West did long ago: make health insurance universal and affordable.
McConnell’s argument that this would somehow be bad for the country just doesn’t make sense.
President Obama’s plan is the right prescription for our country.

Randy Patrick is the managing editor of The Winchester Sun.

The changing face of homelessness

Nearly half of the homeless in America are children. (Rotary International photo)

Nearly half of the homeless in America are children. (Rotary International photo)

Help Clark County Community Services help the homeless

We know what a homeless person is, don’t we? It’s a middle-aged man in shabby clothes, reeking of liquor, with vacant eyes, mumbling to himself, maybe pushing a stolen shopping cart filled with his belongings, asking if you can spare a dollar.
Maybe not. Try this image instead: an 8-year-old girl who attends a public elementary school and who has to do her homework in the same motel room she shares with her mother and two brothers because Mom lost her job, and along with it, her house.
Or it could be a young couple working part-time jobs, but living in a friend’s garage or a camper because their wages won’t cover the rent and utilities for a decent apartment.
It may be migrant farmworkers crowded into a shack or living in a barn without necessities such as plumbing and adequate lighting.
The face of homelessness in America is changing.
In its annual report to Congress, released last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said that while the number of homeless has remained steady since 2007, it is changing to include more families and more people who live in suburbs and communities.
Of the 1.6 million people who used a homeless shelter or transitional housing between Oct. 1, 2007 and Sept. 30, 2008, about a third of them were rural or suburban residents. That’s an increase of about 24 percent from the year before.
Among the nine areas of the country included in the study that showed an increase in rural and suburban homelessness were 118 Kentucky counties, excluding the big city counties of Jefferson and Fayette.
Here in Clark County, we have seen in recent months that homelessness is not just a big city problem.
The first comprehensive local count, last winter showed that the number of homeless and marginally housed people in our own community was much higher than expected; 531 of our neighbors met the government’s definition of homeless.
Eighteen of those people at the time were “on the streets” or had no shelter. The largest number, 344, were “doubled up” with other families, usually without their landlords’ knowledge, and 96 were in temporary transitional housing. Nearly half of the homeless here were children. Some were people who were working, but couldn’t earn enough to make ends meet.
It simply isn’t true that all, or even most, homeless people are in that condition because they don’t want to help themselves.
The government has a responsibility to help these people, but so does our community, and that means each of us.
Clark County Community Services has only until Aug. 1 to raise $20,000 to match a $50,000 state grant to help the homeless — or it will lose the grant.
The Sleepless in Winchester concert recently was intended to raise much of that amount from churches, especially youth groups, and others, but despite heavy publicity and personal discussions with representatives of Clark County’s 130 or so churches, few attended the event.
Now the “need center” is racing against a fast-approaching deadline to come up with money or pledges to match the grant.
Judy Crowe, the executive director, said this week that so far only one church in the community has responded to the pledge cards that were sent out. If 20 churches or individuals would sign pledge cards before Aug. 1 saying they will give $1,000 before next August, Community Services can meet or exceed its goal. She has plenty of cards at her office at 30 Taylor Ave.
St. James said that “faith without works” is dead. This is an opporunity for local churches to put their faith into action. Please give something to help “the least of these” among our neighbors.

Cleaner energy: a moral imperative

Dr. Matthew Sleeth

Dr. Matthew Sleeth

Dr. Matthew Sleeth of Wilmore, Ky., a former chief of medical staff of a large hospital, will never forget one of his young patients, 8-year-old Etta Green.
It was a hot, humid and hazy day in the nation’s capital, and TV meteorologists were warning people with illnesses not to be outside. But Etta and her brother went to a neighborhood playground and were running through a sprinkler to cool off when Etta had an asthma attack.
At the hospital, Sleeth took Etta by her little hand and told her “I’m not going to let anything bad happen to you, sweetheart,” as she looked into his eyes and squeezed his hand.
The doctors forced air into Etta’s lungs and did everything they knew to do, but “despite the best efforts of an entire pediatric emergency department, I broke my promise to Etta. She died of air pollution on that summer day,” Sleeth wrote.
In his book, “Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action,” Sleeth, who gave up his lucrative medical career to travel the country talking about the biblical imperative to be good stewards of God’s creation, makes the case that reducing carbon emissions isn’t only an environmental or economic issue, or an issue of energy independence — it’s a moral issue.

Yesterday's technology (www.kftc.com)

Yesterday's technology (www.kftc.com)

Asthma, which wasn’t that common when he was a child, has become epidemic, he says, because of all the pollutants in the air.
He cites a Harvard School of Health study which found that the impact of one particular power plant in Massachusetts caused 3,000 asthma attacks, 1,200 emergency room visits and 110 deaths a year. Multiply that by the number of coal-fired power plants in the world, and you get some idea of what fossil fuels are doing to our atmosphere.
It is believed that 64,000 Americans die each year due to soot in the air.
But it isn’t just the air that’s affected. Burning oil, coal and other carbon fuels is in large measure responsible for global warming, which in turn is responsible for record numbers of hurricanes, floods, droughts and extreme heat waves that are endangering lives and destroying our means of sustenance.
And mountaintop removal, one method of mining used to get the coal, is turning our Appalachian Mountains into moonscapes, destroying waterways, beautiful vistas, people’s livelihood and possibly lives.

What mountaintop removal does to a landscape

What mountaintop removal does to a landscape

Sleeth notes that an SUV can put 14,000 pounds of greenhouse gases into the air in one year, while a hybrid car puts 3,000 pounds into the air.
Who really needs an off-road vehicle anyway?
I met Matt Sleeth in Wilmore last month, and he gave me a copy of his book. I’ve been reading it at the same time that I’ve been reading news stories and editorials about the the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is now before the Senate.
U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Ky., has taken some heat for voting to support the legislation, and that’s understandable. It is laden with pork and compromises too much, but that’s to be expected with any bill of great magnitude until the day there is real reform of the legislative process.
Any legislation, however, that moves us toward alternative energy and a cleaner environment is a step in the right direction. In the long run, it may save the planet. In the short term it may save many others like Etta.

Randy Patrick is the managing editor of The Winchester Sun.

Tyler Bryant: The next blues rock king?

The Tyler Bryant Band by rock photographer Robert Knight on TheBAYNET.com

The Tyler Bryant Band by rock photographer Robert Knight on TheBAYNET.com

Twenty-year-old Caleb Crosby of Winchester achieved some acclaim as a drummer when he was still a high school student, but the George Rogers Clark grad and son of GRC band director Steve Crosby and his wife Shanda has joined with an 18-year-old guitar virtuoso from Texas who is getting national attention.

Shanda informed me this week that the Tyler Bryant Band has been touring this summer with some 80s classic rock bands, including Heart, Styx and REO Speedwagon, as well as legendary blues man B.B. King.

This week they appeared on network news programs in Minneapolis and Chicago.

The third member is bass player Calvin Webster, also 20.

Check out this video (as well as others on YouTube). These guys rock! http://abclocal.go.com/wls/video?id=6893130

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