Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Archives: Feb. 2012


Economy starting to show some real signs of life . . . maybe

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Quick, someone. Knock on wood.

While some signs seem to indicate that the nation really might be lumbering out of the Great Recession that economists say technically ended in June 2009, we’re holding our breath, crossing our fingers and, yes, knocking on wood. We won’t believe it until . . . well, we like to think that we’ll know recovery when we see it. And we sure don’t want to jinx it by proclaiming it a done deal.
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A welcome offensive against Medicare fraud

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Forget drug trafficking. For criminal enterprises, the real money is in Medicare.

A case in Texas demonstrates how much loot can be gotten by illegally tapping the immense federal health insurance for seniors. U.S. prosecutors on Tuesday charged a doctor, Jacques Roy, with masterminding a conspiracy that fraudulently billed $350 million to Medicare over the last five years, plus another $24 million to Medicaid.

One doctor. A third of a billion dollars.

He did have help, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Investigators say that Roy’s business, Medistat Group Associates, worked with home health care agencies to recruit thousands of Medicare-eligible patients. The patients would be given unnecessary medical services and home visits at Medicare’s expense, say the investigators.
The owner of one home care agency reportedly paid recruiters $50 a head for “patients” they found at a homeless shelter.

The Obama administration has been trumpeting these Medicare busts as evidence of its success in rooting out the fraud and abuse that may be filching as much as $60 billion a year out of the approximately $500 billion the country spends on the program every year.
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Did Madigan’s PTSD team break faith with soldiers?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The United States has a history of losing interest in its combat veterans after they’ve lost their military usefulness. Shame on all of us if that has happened at Madigan Army Medical Center.

The Army has been investigating the practices of a psychiatric team charged with confirming diagnoses of service-related post-traumatic stress disorder among soldiers. The question is whether doctors were dispassionately looking at symptoms or trying to save the Pentagon money by minimizing disability claims.

Someone deserves credit for taking this seriously. Both the commander of Madigan and the leader of the PTSD review team have been temporarily relieved of command. Twelve soldiers who had their PTSD diagnoses reversed at Madigan have since been re-examined by Walter Reed, where doctors concluded that six of them indeed suffered from the disorder.

That 50 percent error rate looks bad, to say the least. The Army is now seeking to review the cases of all soldiers who had their PTSD diagnoses thrown out at Madigan in the last four years.

For combat veterans, the stakes are big. A severe case of PTSD is a crippling condition; the diagnosis can lead to medical retirement, an immediate pension and a lifetime of medical care.
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Young victims of abuse need to see that love = respect


This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition

Are they or aren’t they?

On the entertainment shows and blogosphere, the speculation is rampant that pop diva Rihanna is back with the man who badly beat her three years ago, rapper Chris Brown.

Many have reacted with outrage to even the thought that the young victim of domestic violence has reconciled with her abuser (so far the official word is that the two are just friends and musical collaborators). Others, sadly, have made comments online such as, “He can beat me up anytime” – a reflection of how many young women equate a partner’s abuse with love.

In the weeks after the 2009 felony assault incident – for which Brown served no jail time – Rihanna seemed strong and defiant. She warned other women not to be blinded by love for their abuser. If she has, indeed, taken Brown back, it is a choice all too many victims of abuse make, experts say.
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The good news: Plan B remains in effect across the state

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Viewed from one angle, the state requirement that all pharmacies dispense Plan B – the “morning-after pill” – is a reasonable measure to guarantee women access to emergency birth control.

Viewed from another angle, that same requirement violates the consciences of pharmacists and pharmacy owners who regard Plan B as a potential means of abortion.
From the first angle, the state Board of Pharmacy’s rule is utterly reasonable. From the second, it is a bare-knuckled assault on religious freedom, particularly the freedom of Roman Catholics. The stark conflict between those two views is why the rule has been ping-ponging around the federal courts for five years now.

Once again, U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton has ruled in favor of pharmacists who say the policy violates their First Amendment rights. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had overturned a similar decision he made in 2007 and sent the lawsuit back to him to apply a different legal standard. Leighton’s new decision could trigger another round of litigation if the state appeals it.

For advocates of Plan B – count us among them – this is not the end of the world.

The rule remains in place; Leighton’s ruling affects only the pharmacy and two pharmacists who challenged it. If it stands, it would obviously open the door for new challenges. But very few pharmacies seem interested in not selling Plan B.
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Child’s shooting shows need for safe gun storage law

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Authorities could end up charging the wrong person for the tragic shooting Wednesday of a third-grade girl at her Bremerton school. Blame it on this state’s lack of even a minimal gun-storage requirement.

The 9-year-old boy who brought a loaded handgun to school in his backpack does bear responsibility for the accidental shooting that critically injured Amina Bowman. But again, he’s 9 years old. Children that age often have little understanding of the consequences of their actions. Authorities would have to prove that the boy was aware that his actions were wrong in order to charge him with a crime.

Unfortunately, the person most responsible for this tragedy –  the adult who kept a loaded gun accessible to a youngster – likely won’t be held accountable.  Washington is not one of the 27 states that requires at least minimal safeguards to prevent children from getting access to firearms in the home. It has no criminal penalty for adults who fail to do so. Read more »


Still waiting for a reality-based budget from Olympia

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Want a refresher on how the Legislature dug itself into such a deep, deep fiscal pit in recent years? Read the proposed budget the House of Representatives released Tuesday.

When the session began, the ostensible job of the Democratic majority’s budget-writers was to deal with a state revenue shortfall of roughly $1.5 billion through the end of the 2011-2013 biennium. Last fall, Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed doing it the hard way: by deeply cutting state services – eliminating whole programs in some cases – and asking voters to “buy back” the most

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Rescuers deserve more help from lost adventurers

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

This winter has been a killer in Washington’s Cascade Mountains – literally.

In Mount Rainier National Park, a snowshoer died in December and four other people went missing in mid-January and are presumed dead. On Sunday, a snowboarder and three veteran skiers died in backcountry avalanches.

In some of the cases, it’s possible that technology might have been a life-saver – had it been used. The most remarkable survival story is that of professional skier Elyse Saugstad, who credits her specialty air bag with keeping her on top of the avalanche Sunday at Stevens Pass that killed three companions.
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