Colorado Editorial Roundup
The Associated Press
Jun. 28, 2017
Aurora Sentinel, June 27, on bipartisan change to Obamacare:
Two things are easy for everyone to agree on: Obamacare was a noble idea that isn't working, and what Republicans are pitching as a replacement is far worse than Obamacare.
Beside those certainties, American health care reform is chaos.
How American health care works — or more accurately, doesn't work — is vastly complicated and exasperating. It's a hodgepodge of philosophies, regulations, laws and endless contradictions. Obamacare was an attempt to reduce the individual costs of health care and force insurance companies to deliver value and fairness. It was doomed from the beginning because it tried to create a better system for consumers without structurally changing it. Without regulating costs and controlling premium hikes, suppliers endlessly hiked prices and insurance companies demanded higher premiums. While Obamacare infinitely improved how consumers were treated by insurance companies, fewer people in the vast middle class can afford it any more.
Trumpcare, as proposed by House and Senate Republicans, only makes an increasingly bad health care system dangerously worse.
Numerous outside experts and analysts agree that it would immediately make health insurance more expensive for Americans who are already struggling with the cost of Obamacare. If you're between the ages of 50-65, you'll pay more than anyone, and you'll pay much, much more than you do now. If you don't pay, your employer will, putting millions of American jobs at risk as companies struggle with these costs just like citizens are.
Trumpcare would not only push people out of insurance immediately, it would result in better than 20 million Americans becoming uninsured above what uninsured predictions are with Obamacare. Who's demanding "no" votes on this bill? Just about every single organization of doctors, nurses, technicians, hospitals, the AARP, myriad patient-advocate groups and almost every health-insurance company in the country.
The only winners with Trumpcare are the very rich, who would see hefty tax cuts, in the tens of thousands of dollars a year.
Setting aside the ethical quagmire Trumpcare unleashes, here's what Congress must deal with to come even close to solving the problem:
There are millions of Americans who pay nothing or relatively little for health care each year. The country spends about $600 billion a year just on Medicaid spending. On top of that, hospitals provide about $40 billion a year in "uncompensated" care to sick people who don't have insurance or Medicaid. And on top of that, hospitals report that they lose another $60 billion a year or so from Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates that are well under actual costs.
It means that we continue to play a shell game on how to pay for about $700 billion in health care for people who can't or don't pay for some or all of their care.
While many Republicans say they don't want to offer free care through Medicaid to so many poor people any more, it's not that simple. White House advisor Kellyanne Conway summed up how ludicrous the issue has become by explaining that many Medicaid recipients can just get jobs with health benefits and get off the public dole.
Besides being cruel, the notion is naive. What she and many Republicans fail to admit is that the nation's uninsured and poor have long gotten health care and will in the future. A federal law demands that hospitals treat emergency patients even if they can't pay.
Nobody disagrees that treating people in emergency rooms is the most expensive and unproductive thing we can do. So by providing vastly cheaper care to poor people before they end up in emergency rooms, everybody saves money.
The way the system works now, even under Trumpcare, reducing or even ending Medicaid would only shift hundreds of billions of dollars in government spending on indigent care to the hospitals and providers, who would pass those costs onto paying customers.
Before Congress decides what it's going to do with Obamacare, we first must decide whether we will allow millions of people to die or flood emergency rooms because they lack health care they can't afford.
We would hope not. And if we don't, then Congress must in the short-term prop up Obamacare to keep the system working. Jacking rates through the roof and forcing huge expenses onto an already shaky hospital system, especially in rural areas, is not only cruel, but it's political suicide for Republicans. The only way to create a compromise we can live with in the short term is through bi-partisan negotiation in both the House and Senate. Moderate Republicans and Democrats are much closer on this issue than the spectrum of Republicans. That bi-partisan block is strong enough to get the job done.
Even then, such a fix will be unsustainable.
If we provide free or subsidized care for millions, we can do it only one way. The only answer is some type of universal care.
But for now, we have to keep the system working as it does until the inevitable becomes reality.
Steamboat Pilot & Today, June 27, on taking care of trails:
An endowment fund, which was created last year to help maintain area trails on public lands, is currently lacking grassroots support, and promoters of the Trail Maintenance Endowment Fund, which is held by the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, are looking for ways to change that.
Donations to the fund currently total about $131,238, which is almost $70,000 short of this year's fundraising goal of $200,000. We encourage those who enjoy our trails — visitors and locals — to support trail upkeep by donating to the endowment fund and also making sure they are doing their part to keep the trails in tip-top shape. Every donation counts, and even $1 a month from users would add up quickly.
Because the trail endowment fund is fairly new, we hope the lag in fundraising can be attributed to a lack of education and awareness, and we encourage those who are leading the Trail Endowment Maintenance Fund's rallying cry to continue their efforts.
The group is leading "trail tasting" tours and has been involved in Token Tuesdays at Mountain Tap Brewery to raise money, among other fundraisers. Informational posters about the fund are on display throughout town, and promoters are also selling T-shirts. A new Bike Ambassadors program, created by Bike Town USA, will also help spread the word about the fund as volunteers interact with those using the trail system on Emerald Mountain.
As Helen Beall, Yampa Valley Community Foundation marketing manager, said, "If you can afford a bike or running shoes or a horse, you can afford a donation to the fund," and we are in agreement with that statement.
Trails in Steamboat Springs are supported in numerous ways. Many of the new trails were built with lodging tax dollars, a measure Steamboat Springs voters approved in 2013, and it could be misconstrued that the funding also covers trail maintenance, which it does not.
The new trails continue to transform our community's trail system, which, in turn, helps strengthen Steamboat's Bike Town USA brand while also satisfying locals' appetite for improved access to outdoor recreation.
It's also important that trail users understand their role in ensuring they don't damage trails and cause the need for repairs. Recently, the U.S. Forest Service closed off a number of trails in the Buff Pass area that were built and used illegally. The action comes at a time when the Forest Service is expanding the trail system in that area with lodging accommodations money.
We encourage trail users of all types to follow trail usage guidelines, including honoring trail closures due to muddy conditions or wildlife and following trail etiquette.
The trails we love to enjoy on foot, on our bikes and on horseback don't take care of themselves, and as we add new trails to the system, maintenance costs rise. It's imperative we find a way to keep our trails navigable and accessible, and that means trail users should seriously consider giving to a fund that is dedicated to just that.
Over the next eight years, the Trail Endowment Maintenance Fund is hoping to raise between $1 million and $1.5 million, which would mean the group could finance at least $60,000 of trail maintenance annually, and we think that's an effort worth supporting. For more information about the fund or to donate, visit yvcf.org/trails.
The Pueblo Chieftain, June 27, on using marijuana sales for scholarships:
We have to admit, it was a fun photo.
Dozens of recent high school graduates -- and a few who have finished some college -- standing on the steps of the Pueblo County Courthouse recently, waiting to receive their $2,000 scholarships.
And other photos of students posing with their parents likewise were fun.
We also have to admit that while the photos and the story about 210 Pueblo students receiving the scholarships were pleasing, we remain a bit unnerved by the source of the funding.
The students received the two $1,000 scholarships -- one for each school year semester -- from Pueblo County's marijuana excise tax. In all, $420,000 from pot taxes went to the students.
It still seems odd to us that marijuana is helping fund college educations, but the reality is, it's time to get over it. If legal retail marijuana is here to stay, and that seems to be the case, then proceeds from it might as well be used for good purposes.
And helping young men and women with their high college expenses certainly is a good cause.
We admit to being old-fashioned about the entire marijuana issue, but several of the scholarship recipients who were interviewed by The Chieftain were not in the least bit bothered by any real or perceived stigma attached to the funding source.
"It's going to something good. If it wasn't going to something good, then maybe it would be a problem," one student told our reporter.
Jeanette Garcia, a member of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, said she was extremely proud of the students.
"Congratulations to our scholarship recipients, especially to the city and county of Pueblo for having the vision to invest in our own citizens," Garcia said.
By the way, the number of awards was significantly higher this year than last, when 23 students received scholarships in the first year that the program was offered.
The Pueblo County commissioners last year approved a partnership with the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation to administer the Pueblo County Scholarship Fund using pot excise tax dollars to match state funding from the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative.
Beverly Duran, executive director of the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation, said that every student who applied and met the qualifications of graduating from a high school in Pueblo County and planning on attending either Colorado State University-Pueblo or Pueblo Community College received a scholarship.
Nineteen of the 23 students who received scholarships last year were awarded again this year.
We are thrilled that so many scholarships were offered, regardless of the source. And we salute the county commissioners for coming up with this idea.
The Cortez Journal, June 26, on Canyons of the Ancients:
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke apparently has told members of Colorado's congressional delegation that he is not inclined to alter or eliminate Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
Both of Colorado's U.S. senators, plus Rep. Scott Tipton, whose congressional district includes the monument, urged Zinke to leave CANM alone. The Cortez City Council also weighed in, recommending that the monument designation remain unchanged.
It is especially telling that not a single citizen asked the council to advocate for changes to the monument. That might not have been true even a decade ago, but the monument has been a done deal since 2000, and citizens' fears surrounding its designation have not come to pass.
Zinke is right in believing the monument is settled, and his decision to leave well enough alone is a wise one. Multiple use is still the management philosophy of the monument. Cattle haven't been banned; energy extraction continues. Those uses coexist with mountain biking, hiking, tourism and protection of the monument's thousands of archaeological sites. That is not to say that those protections are adequately funded, but they are far better than nothing, and they are certainly not unduly restrictive.
Still, the president and many of his advisors do not seem to have a clear understanding of the value and purpose of public lands, which are primarily a feature of the western half of the country. Whittling away at them is terrible, but fencing them off and forgetting them also is disastrous.
Zinke is proposing deep personnel reductions to the Department of the Interior, and as staffing shrinks, so do programs. Such a plan almost guarantees that politicians will continue to point to the West's national forests, monuments, parks and refuges and say, "Look, they're not being managed well. The private sector can do better."
But managing for profit is not the same as managing for protection and public access. Multiple uses of public lands is a long-held value in the western United States, and it has supported multiple goals that range from conservation and preservation to the development of sustainable local economies. When the system is allowed to function as intended, it works very well.
The public comment period at regulations.gov ends July 10. While CANM appears to be off the chopping block for now, it still needs advocates, because changing the monument's designation is not the only way to destroy it.