A sick system - Brownsville Herald: Letters To The Editor

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A sick system

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Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2019 12:30 am


With insurance your prescription is $10; without it, $210. That’s sick. In fact, the entire healthcare system is sick. It suffers from inexcusable inequities. It needs to be changed.

People used to pay for medical services out of pocket. When health insurance first became available in the 1920s, patients got reimbursed by the insurer, but eventually insurers arranged to pay a group of care providers directly, leaving the patient out of the loop. Soon insurers were negotiating beneficial rates for services, but unless the patient used a specific provider, only a set amount was allowed. When government froze all salaries during World War II, employers began offering employee health care as a benefit to get around salary caps. Now, it dominates the market and the cost disparity between the insured and noninsured is ludicrous and tragic.

I recently spent 10 days in the hospital, the victim of an auto-pedestrian hit-and-run. My raw bill was more than $100,000. Insurance negotiated that cost down to $13,000.

Medical expenses are the most common reason for bankruptcy filings in this country.

How do we fix it? Adopt government health care?

The government helped create this mess; the only way out is free-market economics.

If the state wants to help, it should ensure that market is fair. Insurance should be a true risk pool. The concept is basic. The solution is obvious: Drug and healthcare providers must charge all customers the same, whether insured or not. They can charge whatever they like but must publish their rates for each product, procedure or service.

Insurers may also charge whatever they like and offer a menu of coverage options (maternity for males?). They must publish their rates and charge all clients the same, but co-pays can range from 0 percent for clients who have been covered by insurance (including other insurers) since birth to 99 percent for those who enrolled just yesterday. Those who have a long lapse in coverage may opt to pay a catch-up surcharge until they reach a target percentage. Those not currently insured may have to pay pre-existing condition surcharges. The insurer may reduce premiums in return for a variety of deductibles and/or additional voluntary co-pays.

Make insurance a real risk pool instead of a crap shoot. Incentivize participation.

Except for the indigent and disabled, medical debt should be equivalent to a debt owed to the IRS. The indigent and disabled would fall into the safety net, but that’s a tax issue worthy of a future letter.

Jack McNally


Gas plants

not wanted


I wrote a letter to the CEO of Annova LNG, Mr. Omar Khayum, in response to the petition on their website, https://annovalng.com/.

I found the petition to be full of vagueness, misrepresentations, and pretty much fraudulent. I encourage the media to investigate what is really going on with these corporations, the state of Texas, the federal government and local politicians. This is being rubber-stamped, along with the other two projects. They are going to ruin our Valley.

I am highly opposed to the liquefied natural gas companies descending on our Valley. Their claims of mitigating the destructive impact are without thought or merit and highly insufficient. Page 31 of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission draft environmental impact statement clearly states that the proposed projects will convert ocelot habitat to industrial use, fragment other habitat and increase road traffic in the area, increasing the potential for vehicle strikes. Noise generated during construction

and operation would be audible to ocelots and jaguarundis utilizing the wildlife corridor.

Additionally, the proposed wetland mitigation is to re-flood Little San Martin Lake. This area is already owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and it could easily do it if it chose to.

This proposal is in no way commensurate with the destruction of 53 acres of estuarine emergent marsh. The so-named scrub-shrub (mangroves) are essential to maintaining the current ecosystem in place. Mangrove forests are among the most productive ecosystems on earth and serve many important functions, including water filtration, prevention of coastal erosion, coastal protection from storms, carbon storage, food, timber, livelihood provision and biodiversity protection, among others.

All impacts to wetlands should be mitigated, including the 42.1 acres impacted by the construction of the pipeline. The “maintained” 50-foot right of way would never allow the normal succession of mature vegetation, diminishing its wetland value and function. Additionally, the use of wetlands for temporary work space for pipeline construction deviates from FERC procedures and should not be allowed.

Annova LNG’s petition states that 1,700 onsite jobs filled in the RGV. Not true. The indigenous population of the Rio Grande Valley (35 percent-45 percent) is primarily under the poverty level, the third highest in the nation next to Las Cruces, N.M., and El Paso. The skilled labor needed to construct, operate, maintain and oversee this facility is severely lacking in the RGV. The company will not employ 700 skilled laborers from the Valley. And, upon completion, only 165 of those jobs will be permanent and according to the petition will pay $70,000 annually.

Where is the skilled labor to garner that salary? Not in the Valley.

The company claims it will be a boost to other businesses in the area. Wrong. There are not that many engineering and design firms or construction contractors suppliers and service providers in the area. There is no sufficient labor pool in Cameron County to support this.

Annova claims LNG is nonflammable, will not explode and has no odor. False. A vapor cloud or vapor pool is fatal if ignited. Look at the history of LNG plant explosions. They are always catastrophic. Look at the history of the plants in the U.S. and abroad that have been fatal. Just a few weeks ago in the Austin area a propane delivery tank overturned and the HazMat teams evacuated a 4-mile radius area of the overturned truck because of a vapor cloud ignition! Not flammable indeed!

Annova claims it will serve a niche market. It has no contracted market that has agreed to import its product. If it does, it should provide appropriate documentation to support that claim.

It claims to have given $40 million to the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Institute at Texas A& M Kingsville for GPS collars. Fraudulent. I would like to see the appropriations of that $40 million. It is not all going to tracking collars. Tracking collars for animals run from $20 to $300. There are not that many ocelots to track that would incur $40 million in collar costs. After all, they already are endangered. As a state taxpayer, I demand to see where this public institution money is going! Probably in the politicians’ pockets so the company can get approval.

We do not want LNG down there. I am a property owner in Austin and in Port Isabel. Rest assured I will fight this to the bitter end. LNG is going to destroy the last pristine coastline and refuge left in Texas, and the Western Hemisphere. More than 100,000 shorebirds migrate annually down there, in just the scrub-shrub the company wants to destroy. It should stay out of our Valley.

Mary Branch

Port Isabel

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