Monthly Archives: July 2005

Health district for La Plata County?

A community task force, which includes representatives of the Colorado Nurses Association, Action Coalition for Medical Excellence, Valley Wide Health Systems, Mercy Medical Center, United Way of Southwest Colorado, San Juan Basin Health Department, the League of Women Voters, Rocky Mountains Health Plan and the La Plata County Medical Society, has just released the results of two surveys and a local health fair poll on health care and insurance issues in La Plata County.

The surveys reveal:

  • Eighteen percent of residents have no health insurance.
  • Twenty-one percent have no regular primary-care provider.
  • Practitioners of internal medicine and pediatrics are in short supply.
  • Cost is the most common barrier to seeking medical help.
  • Forty-three percent would support a tax increase to widen medical coverage.

The 11-member task force wants to identify local needs and local solutions and find local funding to implement the solutions. Some of the Primary Care Access Study Group’s recommendations include:

  • Create a health-service district that would be funded by a property-tax increase. The tax revenue or financial support public or private groups could subsidize primary care, for example at San Juan Basin Health Department or the community health clinic currently operated by Valley Wide Health Systems clinics.
  • Urge La Plata County Medical Society members to devise a fair-share plan so no single practitioner has a disproportionate number of indigent, uninsured, underinsured, Medicare or Medicaid patients.
  • Establish a challenge fund through which business groups, charitable organizations and government agencies could match dollar donations from private physician groups, Mercy Medical Center or Valley Wide Health Systems to recruit health-care providers in deficit categories.

A health-care district would require approval by elected officials and a judge before it could go on a ballot. The earliest the proposal could be put to voters would be May 2006.

Read the full article in The Durango Herald . . .

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Durango home costs jump 19% in a year

The median price of a home within Durango city limits increased almost 19 percent from $299,999 in the second quarter of 2004 to $355,752 in the second quarter of 2005. Meanwhile, county homes saw an increase from a $262,000 median price to $291,000, about 11 percent. The median price of county homes near Durango is $369,900, near Bayfield $254,000 and near Ignacio $208,000.

Read the full article in the Durango Herald . . .

Health care and global competitive advantage

Paul Krugman’s July 25 article on Toyota locating a new car factory in Canada rather than the U.S. because of the educated Canadian workforce and its national health insurance system highlights the differences the public sector plays in the two countries. He writes,

“Pundits tell us that the welfare state is doomed by globalization, that programs like national health insurance have become unsustainable. But Canada’s universal health insurance system is handling international competition just fine. It’s our own system, which penalizes companies that treat their workers well, that’s in trouble.”

Maybe treating people well is a competitve advantage in the global economy after all.

Can US health care learn something from Canada?

Ian Morrison’s opinion piece makes it clear that no country has the perfect health system – not even Canada, but the U.S could learn a bit from its neighbor to the north when it comes to administrative efficiency. As he writes,

“Estimates are that 25 percent of American health care is administrative waste: Armies of clerks are upcoding, downcoding, adjudicating, faxing, scribbling and kvetching over payment. In Los Angeles County alone there are 1,900 people who do nothing but fill out forms for Medicaid eligibility with a productivity target of two such forms a day. In Canada, all doctors in each province are paid based on a standard simple fee schedule. There are no discounts, no pay for performance, not much utilization review and very little faxing.”

With GM announcing that their second quarter losses of $1.1 billion are due primarilty to increasing health care costs, you’d think there would be more private sector demand to eliminate such waste.

One step forward on global warming, but …

It is good to see that U.S. Senators are publicly agreeing with the overwhelming scientific evidence that global warming is fact, not fiction and that the federal government should quickly act to address the issue.

Unfortunately, senators cannot seems to agree on what to do. In the words of Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.). “I’m looking for a solution, but I’m not going to join the crowd that thinks it’s simple.”

Including incentives for energy efficiency rather than for oil and gas development (in the current energy bill) and reinstituting vehicle efficiency standards don’t seem to make the grade despite growing concern about US security and our dependence on foreign oil.

Check out www.setamericafree.org and www.oilendgame.com.

Community organizations seek support on Routt County Ballot

Three organizations hve come forward with proposal for property tax increase to help fund their programs. Combined, the tax increase would add 4.56 mills, or $32 for every $100,000 of assessed residential value. For the average home in Steamboat Springs — valued at $560,000, the three tax increases total an extra $180 a year.

  • The East Routt Library Board is asking for an estimated 2.56-mill levy to be used for the construction and operating expenses of an expanded library facility. The mill levy would be applied to properties within the Steamboat Springs School District.
  • Horizons Specialized Services is requesting a countywide 1-mill levy to help fund programs for Routt County residents with developmental disabilities.
  • The PDR Citizens Advisory Board asked county commissioners to approve a ballot question to renew a mill levy dedicated to preserving agriculture land and open space in Routt County. The board also requested to increase the levy from 1 mill to 1.5 mills.

With the Purchase Development Rights tax ending in two years, Citizens Advisory Board members said they wanted to ask voters now to renew the tax. They hoped an additional half-mill would help them fund projects.

In 1996, Routt County voters became the first in the intermountain West to establish a tax dedicated to a county-funded Purchase of Development Rights program.

At present, the tax generates about $700,000 a year. The additional half mill would raise a little more than $1 million and would help fund more of the projects that come before the board.

Currently, the cost to a Routt County homeowner is $7.96 a year per $100,000 of assessed value. The tax would increase to $11.94 a year per $100,000 of assessed value if voters approve a 1.5-mill levy.

Wages lag in Grand Valley

A recent study conducted by the city of Grand Junction shows Mesa County ranks last in average annual wages among Colorado’s seven most populated communities, even as it steadily becomes more a more place expensive to live.

The study includes April data from the Economic Research Institute and 2003 data from Colorado’s Occupational Employment Statistics Program. The data show Mesa County, with an average annual worker salary of $35,500, ranks anywhere between 2 and 14 percent below the other six metro areas. The OES Program data reveal virtually the same figures.

In years past, employers have been able to respond to gripes about comparatively low wages by pointing out the Grand Valley’s equally low cost-of-living. But ERI data appear to deflate that argument. A federal report released earlier this year showed home prices in the Grand Junction area increased 6.71 percent in 2004, more than any other metro area in Colorado and 2.5 percent more than the state average. Gasoline, utilities and groceries are usually more expensive in the valley than the state’s metro areas. Experts say it’s because more competition for those services on the Front Range drives down prices, and some cities, such as Colorado Springs, own their own utility companies.