Health reform should promote choice, not coerce consumers

If you’re unhappy with health care, you’re obviously not alone.  For most people, the problem isn’t availability.  The problem is cost – cost of treatment, cost of prescriptions, cost of insurance, or cost of paying for the uninsured.

For more than 60 years, government has tinkered with the way we pay for health care.  Unfortunately, when government "solutions" fail, lawmakers rarely admit their mistakes and go back to square one.  Instead, they layer more dubious solutions on top of those that failed until the problem becomes so intractable that far more people suffer from the solution than from the original problem.

Last year, the state legislature created the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on Health Care Reform and charged it with divining a proposal to expand coverage, reduce the number of uninsured and decrease costs.  (After that, curing cancer should be a snap.)

A final recommendation is due this November, but the BRC now appears headed toward a nightmare "solution" consisting of higher taxes, lower wages and fewer choices. (more…)

‘Ordinary Coloradans’ can’t afford this kind of help

The bad economist sees only what immediately strikes the eye; the good economist looks beyond. – Henry Hazlitt.

When Democrats at the State Capitol trumpeted their successes on behalf of "ordinary Coloradans" recently, I couldn’t help but reflect on this key point from Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson.

The way top Democrats tell it, we ordinary Coloradans stand to benefit from a flotilla of renewable energy bills, measures to "help small-business combat soaring health insurance costs," legislation to punish "slipshod construction," and more.

These and so many other bills that passed the legislature this year illustrate what happens when politicians get so close to a perceived problem that they don’t see how their "solutions" will obviously harm the rest of us. (more…)

Roads shortchanged in state budget

In the 18 months since voters passed Referendum C, Colorado’s resurgent economy has boosted the state’s budget windfall by 50 percent, from the $3.7 billion estimated just prior to Election Day 2005 to the most recent estimate of $5.4 billion.

Yet one thing that Ref C’s supporters and detractors seemed to agree upon is the silver lining that current law directs most of that additional revenue to transportation.  After all, state transportation spending fell from $1.39 billion in 2001 to $822 million in 2005, due to economic woes and the expiration of a highway bond program that voters approved in 1999.

Another not-so-obvious factor — political pandering — made the transportation predicament worse during the recession and now seems to be eating away at transportation even as those coffers could be refilled.  For legislators, the political reality is that roads and bridges don’t vote, but senior citizens do – and so do college students and their parents, as well as recipients of Medicaid. (more…)

They’re gambling with your money

Legislators and lobbyists too often take chances with other people’s money.  That’s because the real world impact of legislation is often vastly different from the bravado that punctuates debate at the State Capitol.

Not long after I was elected, I began to hear a relentless drumbeat of complaints from business-owners about the skyrocketing costs of health insurance.  Years of tedious research helped me wrap my mind around the complicated web of federal and state health insurance regulations that make controlling costs so frustratingly difficult.

When I cautiously moved forward in 2003 with legislation that gave consumers more choices and forced insurance companies to compete based on relevant risk factors, like the health status and claims experience, I was careful not to make rash promises. (more…)

E-mail unmasks left’s education chasm

Longtime teachers union boss Albert Shanker infamously remarked, "When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children."

The recent dustup between Democrats at the State Capitol over public school choice revealed that, on certain issues, even those who seem to share common political ideologies can be miles apart.

In case you missed it, discovered a recent e-mail exchange between Rep. Michael Merrifield (D-Manitou Springs) and Sen. Sue Windels (D-Arvada), who respectively chair the education committees in the Colorado House and Senate.

Discussing how they could dismantle the Colorado Charter School Institute, which has the authority to license public charter schools when parents and school districts are deadlocked, Merrifield wrote to Windels that if Governor Ritter is on board, they should abolish the institute – despite objections from key Democrats who support public charter schools. (more…)

Finally, good news about health insurance

For the first time in six years, Colorado’s health insurance market is showing signs of improvement.  More employers are offering insurance coverage, and more working families are being covered.

From 2005 to 2006, 1,289 more businesses offered coverage to their employees and dependants, according to a report from the Colorado Division of Insurance.

That seems like a very modest improvement until it’s compared to the previous five years.   From 2000 to 2005, nearly 23,902 businesses discontinued coverage – an average loss of 4,780 businesses per year.

Hysteria trumps self-defense in gun debate

Hysteria trumped reason yet again at the State Capitol when a senate committee killed the so-called "Make My Day Better" bill on a party-line vote.

Responsible gun owners regularly find themselves subjected to this kind of treatment by wet-diaper, nanny-state liberals who believe that any Colorado citizen with a gun is barely capable of suppressing some ravenous urge to shoot everyone who casts so much as a cross-eyed glance.

House Bill 1011 was sound and reasonable, extending to workers in a business the right to protect themselves against an imminent criminal threat — the same right that Coloradans have enjoyed in their homes since 1985. (more…)

Blame game bedevils Amendment 41

What if your state senator or representative voted for a bill based on what they were told it would do, rather than what the bill actually said in plain ol’ black and white?

What if the actual text of that bill put some rather outrageous things into state law and, when pressed further, your elected legislator explained, "Well, I never actually read the bill before I voted on it"?

Would you pat him or her on the head and say, "Aw, that’s OK.  We know you are busy, so we’ll just ignore the part of the law you didn’t read and instead apply only what you say you intended for it to do"?

Is that what you would say?

No, I didn’t think so. (more…)

Our troops deserve our support

I have never been more discouraged by the prevailing attitude in our country than I am now as we face serious choices about the war in Iraq and the consequences of failure.

Four years ago, the U.S. Senate voted 77-23 to authorize the war in Iraq; the House followed suit 296-133.  Upwards of 70 percent of us supported removing Saddam Hussein and replacing him with a democratically-elected government.

Today, the poll numbers are virtually reversed.  Majorities of Americans now believe going to war was the wrong thing to do, that sectarian violence cannot be resolved anytime soon, and that President Bush’s plan to send deploy more troops is a non-starter.

It’s not hard to understand why.  The "news" from Iraq is almost never good – perhaps because it’s much easier to report bombings and body counts from the safety of a news bureau than it is to interview regular Iraqis who, in so many parts of the country, are benefiting from schools, jobs and opportunities that wouldn’t exist were it not for America’s intervention.

Ethics amendment creates an ethical dilemma

Democracy is the theory that the people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard. — H.L. Mencken

Last November, more than 62 percent of Colorado voters supported Amendment 41, the constitutional amendment advertised to crack down on cozy relationships between lobbyists and politicians.

Garnering 50,000 more votes than any candidate, Amendment 41 demonstrated yet again that just because voters give you the keys to government doesn’t mean they want to leave too much gas in the tank.

Amendment 41’s chief proponents, Colorado Common Cause, opted to put the text in the state constitution where the legislature couldn’t monkey around with it.