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Posts published in “Day: January 21, 2018”

Idaho Briefing – January 22

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for January 15. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

The Idaho Legislature is grinding into action, as is Congress (though the activity in Congress, as of late last week, was much more suspenseful). Education issues appeared to dominate a good deal of discussion during the week.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held at 2.9 percent in December for the third consecutive month after reaching its record low of 2.8 percent in September. The state’s labor force - the aggregate of people 16 years of age and older working or looking for work - continued to grow from November to December by 6,464, or 0.8 percent, to 842,429.

The 366th Surgical Operations Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base was officially put into inactive status during an inactivation ceremony on January 12. The inactivation of the squadron's 24/7 facility was part of the 366th Medical Group's transition to out-patient care.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission recently accepted a 795-acre parcel of important wildlife habitat in the Hailey area donated by long-time Wood River Valley resident and developer Harry Rinker.

The College of Idaho spent roughly two hours on lockdown Monday after a student reported being threatened with a gun by two individuals in a campus parking lot adjacent to the J.A. Albertson Activities Center.

The Bureau of Land Management will hold 14 public meetings in six western states to identify issues and receive public comments.

Pocatello Regional Transit is looking for your help in planning the future of public transportation in the community. On January 24 at the Senior Activity Center, 427 N. 6th Avenue, PRT will be hosting an open house and looking for input on the service’s draft master transit plan. The document shows three different service plans for PRT’s future operations.

PHOTO Representative Raul Labrador speaks to a group in Meridian on immigration, a hot subject in Washington as well as Idaho. (photo/Representative Labrador)
 

Where’s the leverage?

schmidt

Idaho leaders are considering plans to carve up the health care market to save you money. You better be sure which side of the health and wealth teeter totter you fall on, because this could be great news for you or catastrophic. Blue Cross of Idaho is already on board. Should you be?

Do you know if you are going to be hit by a drunk driver? Will you have cancer next month? Or will your wife have a baby too early? I’m a doctor, I studied predisposing conditions, risks and genetics, and I can’t say I knew the answers to these questions. Sometimes I did, but it was usually long after any enrollment period. Insurance companies are multibillion dollar financial betting organizations; they have experts to answer these questions. And they have a bottom line to meet. I figure they know a good deal when they see one. They don’t want expensive patients, and you don’t want expensive patients in your insurance plan.

The fundamental premise of insurance is to pool risk. Before the Affordable Care Act, if insurance companies saw your risk as too great, they could refuse you; no more. They got more customers with the (now repealed) mandate to buy insurance, but they gave up denying folks with preexisting conditions.

The ACA tried to get people to be good shoppers; you would assess your risk, and then chose on the exchange from comparable plans that would suit your needs. It’s been pretty popular here in Idaho, with record enrollments, year after year. Before the ACA, if you wanted to shop for individual plans, it was worse than shopping for jeans that made you look good, with no changing room.

True, the ACA mandated there should be a minimum level of benefits, and limited the range of benefits (Gold, Silver, Lead), but this was to make the marketplace press the insurance companies to cut health care costs. They have barely made a dent, even though Medicare and Medicaid have been effective at containing costs in the last six years. They have leverage. Private insurers have not been able to leverage health care providers, or consumers (YOU) to decrease consumption, improve efficiency, and thus lower costs. So now the white knights arrive.

Cameron and Otter suggest more choice; more slices of the insurance pie will lower costs. Well, they will for you if you don’t get hit by a bus or get cancer and you have chosen the right plan that covers such events. If not, then what? Then somebody else pays.

No, these guys embrace the Wild West solution to the health care conundrum. You get to look at the cards in your hand and make a bet. And if you go bust, the county takes your horse and saddle and your neighbors insurance rates go up.

We need leverage folks, and leverage is in numbers. Splitting us up, as Cameron and Otter propose just weakens our leverage. It is no mystery that the leading employer in most Idaho counties is a health care institution. It is a huge industry, a huge sector of our economy. If we don’t like how it’s working, we can try to organize and get the leverage to solve the problem. That’s what our leaders should be doing.
 

Corporate greed and Alaska

carlson

Alaska’s senior senator, Lisa Murkowski, has accomplished one goal that no other Alaskan senator, despite incredible efforts, ever achieved. Not the longest serving Alaskan senator, the legendary “Uncle Ted” Stevens; not her own father, Frank, during his time in the Senate; not the egotistical and shameless Democrat, Mike Gravel; nor Alaska’s junior senator, Dan Sullivan; nor Alaska’s only other Democratic senator, Mark Begich.

Senator Murkowski delivered what is close in Alaska to a near unanimous bi-partisan supported issue: Obtaining legislation that allows the nation’s oil companies to conduct exploratory drilling in the heretofore sacrosanct 1.5 million acre coastal plain of the Alaska National Wildlife Range, referred to by it initials (ANWR) and pronounced “An-war.”

It has been a long dispute over what may be a small resource, much smaller than Prudhoe Bay, according to the U.S. Geological Survey which estimates there might be enough petroleum product that Americans would consume in six months. Consensus estimates zero in on about 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable product.

In the meantime, wildlife biologists worry that the pipeline would interfere with the 200,000 member Porcupine Caribou herd’s historic migration route in addition to posing a threat to declining numbers of Polar bears.

Alaskans basically don’t care. They believe there’s lots oil underneath the refuge and it can be drilled in an environmentally safe manner and then fed into the existing pipeline without any problems. This also means additional revenue into the Permanent Savings Fund from which each Alaska citizen receives a check based on their length of residency, drawn on the interest from the fund.

The declining price of oil in recent years coupled with breakthroughs in technology that have placed the United States in a position of world leadership due to new extensive reserves has seen payouts decline.

Thus, Murkowski’s ability to successfully attach language to the new tax cut bill permitting exploratory drilling, even though President Obama put an overlay of wilderness designation on the refuge, was welcomed by most Alaskans.

Ever since President Carter signed the Alaska Lands legislation into law in 1980 the resource developers of the world have coveted this refuge. No matter how one dresses it, it is still a pig driven by greed There is no national need for the product, we’re awash in oil. Common sense says treat it like a Naval oil reserve, to be opened only if there is a national emergency.

Then there is an argument skillfully advanced by Carter’s Interior secretary, former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus, in a speech to the annual meeting of the Sierra Club in 1979 in San Francisco. Call it “the last best place” argument. Behind him on the dais was a large map of North America.

Andrus began talking about all the oil and gas leases off-shore of the United States. He started off Maine, went down the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico, went up the Pacific coast to Alaska, went around the Alaskan coast to the far northeast corner of Alaska. He kept saying “we can drill here; we can drill there.”

He then asked the rhetorical question: “Must we have it all? Must we explore and exploit it all?” Can’t we say that all these other areas are enough? Can’t we say there is one area left where a pristine wilderness and an entire eco-system untouched is also a national priority, a value in and of itself that transcends mere dollars?”

He sat down to a thunderous standing ovation.

Senator Murkowski delivered the answer last week. “No, Cecil, you can’t. We want it all and we’ll explore it all and exploit it all. Money trumps everything.”

How sad. Some may say it was a blessing that Andrus, who passed away last August, did not live to see this travesty.