Soap Box

'Thoughts, prayers' don't save lives
09/05/2019

To the editor,

The Red Flag Law should be in every state. This recent mass shooting in Odessa, Texas, would not have happened if law enforcement had been able to take guns away from this redneck shooter when he was firing at animals from the roof of his home, as reported by his nextdoor neighbor.

Uh, officer, is this the guy you played football and drank Lone Star beer with?

To see a picture of a 17-month-old child nearly dead from a military style weapon that also killed seven others over Labor Day sends chills once again – all because this guy lost his job and could care less if he lost his life by caring out just another senseless mass shooting.

From Columbine/Sandy Hook kids to this, when will common sense measures get implemented??!?!! Question marks and exclamation marks should be tattooed on the foreheads on ALL the folks that only have “thoughts and prayers!”

– Sally Florence, Durango

Time to hold train's feet to fire?
08/29/2019

To the editor,

The local “daily” newspaper published an edited version of my letter Aug. 16. Unfortunately, they edited out the most important part. I think it is important to share with your readers also, especially after another recent fire at E. Second Ave and 30th Street, which the DSNGRR attorney insinuated was caused by transient butts. (Cigarette butts, that is.) Fortunately, Durango residents ably doused the blaze.

On Aug. 5 at 10 a.m., a DSNGRR pop car followed the train through Hermosa. On the back of the car was a pump and a surprisingly small water tank. North of the Highway 550 crossing, the operator dismounted, went to the back of the car and turned off a valve to the water tank, which had apparently been left open. I could clearly see that there was only 4 inches of water remaining in the tank. The driver/fireman paused momentarily to give us a look, got back in the car and headed north. As we crossed the highway, I could see the trail of water left between the tracks headed south. I believe the next place to get water to refill the tank would be Rockwood, well beyond where the 416 Fire started. It seems that the fireman didn’t need water, which is a good thing because he had very little.

This incident does not reflect the promises made by the DSNGRR to be responsible and proactive after the 416 Fire last year. Maybe it’s time to hold their feet to the fire.

– Christopher Meyer, Hermosa

Rip off the profit-motive band-aid
08/29/2019

To the editor,

Last fall I met a retired couple living nearby in an RV. Their daughter had contracted a debilitating disease requiring costly treatments. Although they had health-care insurance, their daughter did not. Out-of-pocket expenses devoured their savings, their possessions and finally, their home. Care for the daughter was available, but their insurance company would not approve it, and she passed away. In addition to their deep grief and dire financial suffering, the couple carried a sense of guilt, as if they had failed their child.

It’s a uniquely American scenario.

In America, 62 percent of bankruptcies are due to medical bills. Over 1 million Americans go medically bankrupt each year, stacking financial ruin on top of suffering an often life-threatening illness.

These days we hear hard-hearted political discourse designed to protect corporate profiteers and no one else. Well-funded think tanks pump out anger-stoking messages against “socialist” medical policy, pretending that caring for “the least of these” – what Jesus stood for – is a bad thing. Many uninformed voters, understandably angry at poor health care, are ready to blame someone. This think-tank propaganda fools some voters into actually believing that we’re not all “the least of these.”

All other developed countries love their universal health care. In 2004, Canada overwhelmingly voted Tommy Douglas, the originator of Canada’s universal health care system, to be “The Greatest Canadian.”

America can also have a health care system that covers everyone. By removing the profit motive from health care, National Improved Medicare for All will cover us all and for less than we’re paying now.

– Adele Riffe, Hesperus

Big thanks for often thankless jobs
08/29/2019

To the editor,

Having announced my plan to retire in early 2020, I would be remiss to do so without recognizing the support and hard work of city staff.

City employees do not get enough recognition for the work they do. There is a mean-spirited trend sweeping the country that is eroding civility and denigrating respect for public servants. One way to combat that trend is to encourage the public to think about all the tasks completed by city staff that make their lives better.

While we were sleeping, patrol cars kept our neighborhoods safe, 911 Dispatch answered calls, and IS staff installed software upgrades. As Durango woke up this morning, people turned on the tap, flushed the toilet, then drove to work on well-maintained streets. Not to mention the efforts of airport staff who focus on safely navigating the horizon and library employees who expand our horizons. Let’s face it. The only time the public realizes what we do for them is when something breaks. The community places a high value on city services. The work performed by city employees is the foundation of the quality of life in Durango.

Citizens might like to know: What makes our staff answer the phone to deal with a belligerent caller? Why do Collection & Distribution crews get up in the middle of the night to stand in freezing cold water to repair a broken sewer or water main? Who would want to put on a police uniform to face the uncertainty of potential lethal threats while working a patrol shift? The list goes on.

City employees take pride in their work and in our community. They demonstrate high levels of professionalism and integrity. City employees want this city to be well run and a good value for the taxpayers. The individual efforts of city staff contribute to the overall success of the community. Staff are not looking for public recognition and accolades, they do this because they believe they can make a difference.

Honestly, there are parts about my job that I will not miss. However, I will miss working with the city staff. I would like to thank all members of Team Durango because you have made my job more rewarding and meaningful.

– Ron LeBlanc, City Manager

America's health-care tsunami
08/22/2019

To the editor,

Joe Biden recently announced his plan for America’s health care, which was to enhance the Affordable Care Act, his signature achievement.

I appreciate the herculean effort and the seemingly endless compromises needed to make the ACA the law of the land. The goals were worthy: expanding coverage, improving value and lowering health-care costs. It made sense to build on the current system while minimizing disruption and patching holes. No longer punishing those with pre-existing conditions made for good policy, along with free preventive care and raising the maximum payout for coverage.

Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act is neither caring nor affordable. It has failed with run-away provider and hospital costs, exorbitant premiums and unnecessarily steep prescription drug prices. In 2017, average ACA premium rates soared by 37 percent nationally. Rates grew worse in Colorado, with premiums up more than 60 percent between 2008-18.

Meanwhile, insurance and pharmaceutical companies have seen unprecedented profits. The eight largest health insurers netted more than $21 billion during the first nine months of 2018. Health industry CEOs took home a whopping $2.6 billion in compensation last year. Those billions could have, and should have, been spent on patient care.

Biden’s health-care plan includes increasing financial assistance and making it more available to more people. On the surface, that sounds laudable. But financial assistance, subsidies, reinsurance and tax credits are all different ways of saying, “taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars” going to for-profit health insurers to lower our premiums. Hard-working Americans are stuffing the coffers of insanely profitable health insurers. The government (read: us) paid $55 billion to insurers in 2018.

Why not just redirect all those tax dollars to heal Americans?

Corporate health care currently offers no motivation for insurers to actually heal people. Instead, they hire “denial management specialists” – often nurses and physicians as administrators, medical directors and those whose purpose is to deny submitted claims. If we no longer had private insurers, these medical practitioners could return to the professions for which they trained. This would lessen provider shortages nationally, especially in rural areas.

Health insurance companies also employ a tactic called “Benefit Buy-Down,” which means that year after year your health insurance is less valuable, but you’re paying more for it. They charge more for their policies and offer less coverage for the price.

I’m sure you’ve heard that 71 percent of Americans like their employer-based private health insurance. But you don’t hear about the 40 percent with employer-based insurance who struggle to pay premiums, medical bills or out-of-pocket medical costs.

Americans making $75,000 - $100,000 a year are forced to make difficult sacrifices to pay medical
bills. One-third of GoFundMe pages are families begging for life-saving care – and most have health insurance.

Biden and others say that improved Medicare for All would be too disruptive. Yet they say nothing about the disruption our current health-care system has wrought for decades, including destabilizing millions of Americans lives. We’ve been forced to pay high deductibles, rendering plans unaffordable. Jacked-up premiums have made it impossible for businesses to afford to offer employee benefits.

Exorbitant health-care premiums are why wages have stayed flat for decades. Expensive health-care costs is one of the reasons big businesses move overseas. All the while, access to care shrinks due to continuous narrowing of in-network plans for providers and hospitals.

Simply put, the murky world in which health insurance, pharmaceutical and hospital companies swirl has become a tsunami-sized disruption to the U.S. economy.

Ask yourself if you are more worried about the health of corporations or Americans – namely aging parents, friends, siblings and our growing children and grandchildren.

You’ve heard the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, our health-care system is broke and needs massive fixing. The proposed National Improved Medicare for All isn’t the same as the popular and effective Canadian model. It’s more comprehensive – a uniquely American model. Understand the facts, don’t simply react to the fear behind deceptive sound bites.

– Jan Phillips, Durango