Business as usual
Roger Downey's article on prospective Northwest impacts of climate change was on the mark. As Downey pointed out, disruption in the flow of water to and through the region is the big climate change threat. In fact, the risk of drought in any particular year increases from one in 10 now to one in three by around 2050.
In the short space Downey had, he of course could not deal with all the potential impacts of troubling the waters. Beyond drought, several more are notable. First, extended dry summer conditions are expected to cause more frequent and intense forest fires. Key forest scientists such as Jerry Franklin of the University of Washington project retreat of forests from the east slope of the Cascades.
Second, warming in the surface layers of the Pacific along with rivers and streams that are hotter and smaller during the summer call into serious question the survival of any salmon stocks.
Third, climate change also makes more likely the opposite weather extreme, drenching "pineapple express" storms that cause floods and mudslides.
At the same time, none of this is inevitable. The Northwest already has a budding Silicon Valley of solar energy and fuel cell industries. The region has the stuff to lead a clean energy revolution that will allow a rapid transition out of fossil fuels, which is what it will take to stave off climate change that will be disastrous to Northwest ecosystems and economies if we continue with business as usual.
The Weekly (Impolitics, "Don't get sick," 8/5) overlooked the fact that the Office of the Insurance Commissioner has disapproved the 28.1% rate increase for individual insurance proposed by Regence Blue Shield.
I have rejected that proposed increase four times because the carrier has not submitted information about why it needs the rate hike. What your article should have decried is the state law that permits Regence to levy this disapproved increase anyway while challenging my authority to deny it. Under the law I can't prevent that until their challenge runs its course, which is likely to take months.
As Insurance Commissioner, I have the power to require Regence to justify its request with real data about claims and costs, which it so far has not done. We are subjecting the proposed Regence individual plan rate increase to close scrutiny. It will not be allowed to stand without complete justification.
I will continue to work with legislators, the industry, and consumers to address the true causes of trouble in the health care system, but I will oppose any effort to blame the sick or to limit affordable health care to big groups with clout while forcing small businesses, individuals, and the poor to be segregated into small risk pools with too little leverage with carriers when it comes time to negotiate premiums and coverage.
Insurance Commissioner of Washington
Geov Parrish's article "Don't get sick" (Impolitics, 8/5) really made me laugh. To listen to him tell the story you'd think that nobody in the country was receiving any kind of decent health care except government employees, and all the rest of us were out in back alleys paying black market doctors for gall stone removal.
Government employees have a better-than-average program available to them, and I'd like to see that program reduced to what the common market offers. But "virtually the last" to have comprehensive health benefits? What sort of nonsense is that? For the last 21 years every company I've worked for, from very big to very small, has provided comprehensive health benefits and still does.
He states that Hillary Clinton "botched" a plan for a health care system at the federal level, and he's right. Thank goodness! The very last thing we need is the bloated, out-of-control, can't-accomplish-anything-but-spend-money, bureaucratic government sticking its nose further into this.
He says that an advocacy group, "Health Care 2000, is trying to get a statewide initiative on the ballot next year for universal health care in Washington state." Let's just dictate universal health care, eh? Who cares about the costs! Everybody will be covered and life will be sweet. Think again. This sort of approach leads to fewer doctors (because fewer want to be part of such a system), far higher costs (and higher taxes), and worse care.
I especially loved this statement: "Too many people are making too much money from the current system." Oh, no! Those crummy capitalists are bleeding us dry! And those greedy doctors are way too rich! Please, don't make me laugh. The solution is to eliminate having bureaucrats making health care decisions for patients instead of doctors. Then we need to eliminate excessive regulatory hassles that increase the costs for hospitals, doctors, and everyone else involved in the industry. Then increase competition. Higher competition leads to lower costs and better care. It's the way capitalism works, and it's been shown to work far more effectively than the government in every instance. The socialistic ideas of Parrish, though, have never produced better health care, here or anywhere.
In his 8/5 Impolitics column ("Don't get sick"), Geov Parrish admirably dissects the organized greed, gross inequities, and outright scandal of the HMO-private insurance racket that passes for medical coverage in this state (and nation). He mentions a proposed answer to the disaster he describes: Health Care 2000, a state ballot initiative that would replace the existing setup with a system of public insurance on Canadian lines.
Parrish is honest enough to note that the obstacles to such a sweeping change are formidable. The most important of these—not surprisingly—is the private insurance companies themselves that profit so handsomely from the existing arrangements. A shift to public insurance would put them out of business; and so—again not surprisingly—they will fight any such fundamental reform tooth and nail.
Given this reality, it is time to consider an even more drastic step. This will involve medical personnel threatening to go on strike unless the present "system" is dismantled. It may be that a credible threat by doctors and nurses not to treat patients will be the only thing that can break the grip of the HMO-private insurance complex and mandate free, comprehensive medical treatment and hospital care as a basic right for all citizens.
Death, dignity, and guns
I enjoyed Mark Rahner's commentary on the Make-A-Deathwish Foundation (At Large, 8/5). But I think this nonprofit will have even more trouble than we do here in the National Republic of America. Since gun control is virtually nonexistent in this country, it's still easier (and legal in most cases) to purchase a gun and kill yourself.
Guns don't kill people, Oregon doctors do, at least according to the Pain Relief Promotion Act of 1999. But fear not; if the bill passes, we'll each have the good fortune of having not only our health care providers (and HMOs, insurance regulators, etc.) watching over us, but also law enforcement officials will be trained to decide whether our doctor prescribed those pain killers to comfort us or to kill us. The War on Drugs never felt so close to home.
Our nonprofit continues to offer information, education and counseling about end-of-life options available to seriously ill and terminally ill people in Washington. Our efforts aren't half as entertaining as Rahner's, but we've been providing these services since 1993. If the "self-righteous busybodies" in Congress prevail in overturning Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, however, there will be nowhere to turn for safe, humane and legal assisted dying.
Then again, you can always buy a gun—it's legal.
COMPASSION IN DYING of Washington
Off the Mark
I usually enjoy fringe humor, but the piece by Mark Rahner (At Large, 8/5) is the most juvenile and disgusting article I have read in a long time—particularly his assumption that all people who want to die are sitting in a chair somewhere "With a string of drool hanging from your mouth." Something like this belongs in a trash publication, not the Seattle Weekly.
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