Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: Sep. 2011

Sep.
29th

Decide sooner, not later, on health insurance mandate

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Well, is it or isn’t it?

The question of whether the federal health care insurance mandate is constitutional is all but certain now to go where everyone knew it would eventually – the U.S. Supreme Court.

The mandate for all Americans with taxable income to purchase at least minimal health insurance by 2014 is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act approved by Congress in 2010. It has been challenged by 26 Republican attorneys general – including Washington’s Rob McKenna.

Two federal appeals court panels have ruled on it: The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel (Florida, Georgia and Alabama) struck down the mandate as unconstitutional but upheld the rest of the law while the 6th Circuit panel based in Ohio upheld the law and the mandate. With two federal courts ruling in opposite ways, the mandate was going to get to the Supreme Court eventually. But separate requests from both the Obama administration and the AGs have speeded up the process. Read more »

Sep.
28th

A test of humanity for Washington’s Legislature

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

The impact of Washington’s looming $2 billion shortfall is coming into focus, and it is ugly indeed.

Prepping for an emergency legislative budgeting session in November, Gov. Chris Gregoire has asked her department chiefs to tell her what a 10 percent loss of funding would mean for the people their agencies serve.

Susan Dreyfus, secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services, released three scenarios this week. The first scenario includes cuts backed by some kind of logic, however tenuous.

Example: Eliminating beds for 150 patients at Western State Hospital in Lakewood, including people with dementia, traumatic brain injury and histories of violent behavior. Read more »

Sep.
27th

Stores and shopping carts: Don’t punish the victims

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

A Tacoma City Council member’s proposal to rein in wayward shopping carts strikes some as a solution in search of a problem. But in parts of the city, abandoned carts are a problem, adding blight to neighborhoods people are working hard to turn around.

Pay attention the next time you drive around and you’ll spot them: abandoned at bus stops, by the side of the road, in ditches. Some were left by nondriving shoppers who needed a way to transport their purchases home or to a bus stop. Others were used by homeless people to lug their belongings. Still others may have been taken by kids just for the heck of it.

Councilman Ryan Mello, responding to concerns from the Central Neighborhood Council, wants to create incentives for store owners to take more responsibility for their carts, preferably with electronic systems that prevent carts from working if they leave the store property.
Read more »

Sep.
26th

Washington can’t afford blank checks for ER visits

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Welcome, Medicaid patients, to the new world of parsimonious medicine.

At the behest of the Legislature, the state Health Care Authority – in the face of protests from emergency room doctors – is rolling out new restrictions on Medicaid payments for ER use. The docs say the rules threaten patients with real medical emergencies; the state says the rules merely target excessive use of some of the most expensive care on Earth.

The state has the better part of this argument. It is moving in the right direction – aggressive cost control – so long as it remains willing to adjust the regulations as needed if problems arise.

The big picture here is the human impact of any kind of unnecessary medical care. If one Medicaid patient with a $100 medical problem winds up creating a $1,000 emergency room bill, that’s $900 that might have been spent on care for nine other patients.

The Health Care Authority estimates that more than $50 million could be saved by shifting routine ailments away from emergency rooms. That money could be spent instead on broader medical coverage, child protective services, mental health counseling, etc. Unnecessary state services – including excessive ER use – rob necessary services that protect the vulnerable.

Getting down to particulars, ER physicians are alarmed that the state is reclassifying some dire-sounding diagnoses – such as chest pain – from emergency to non-emergency conditions.

The concern is legitimate. Any Medicaid client who shows up at a hospital with a serious cardiac problem – or signs of another life-threatening illness – should certainly be treated as an emergency patient. The hospital and his or her doctors should be reimbursed accordingly.
Read more »

Sep.
26th

A little teacher strike irony

I found it a little ironic Saturday when I read that the Tacoma teachers union was upset that striking teachers’ pay would be delayed (TNT, 9-24). Their first paycheck Oct. 5 will only cover the two days they actually worked before going out on strike. The district claims state law prohibits it from paying for work not done.

Tacoma Education Association president Andy Coons disputes that. He told reporter Debbie Cafazzo that the delay was “retaliatory” on the district’s part. “You are going to have 2,000 families not being able to make their mortgages, not being able to pay

Read more »

Sep.
25th

The premarital-sex non-argument against the HPV vaccine

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Some perspective is needed on the controversy over the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine that arose after a recent Republican presidential debate. The best way to do that is to take sex out of the equation.

Instead of preventing a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer in women and oral cancer in men, let’s say the HPV vaccine guarded against a fictional virus that caused breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Wouldn’t most parents jump at the chance to decrease the chances of their children contracting those potentially deadly cancers? Only the most hard-core anti-vaccine holdout would say no.

Which gets us back to the sex part of the HPV equation and why some otherwise rational people don’t think children should be inoculated against it. They oppose the HPV vaccine – Cervarix or Gardasil – because they fear that removing one of the consequences of premarital sex would encourage it. Read more »

Sep.
24th

Thank Chris Gregoire for ending Tacoma’s pointless strike

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

An old conspiracy theory holds that the Washington Education Association – the state teachers union – targets a school district every so often and urges its local union affiliate to stage a bruising strike.

The resulting school closure is as much a display of raw power – a cautionary tale for other districts and the Legislature – as it is a quarrel over the terms of a contract.

We’ve never seen proof, but the strike in Tacoma certainly doesn’t weaken the theory.

The final contract agreement – forcefully brokered by Gov. Chris Gregoire on Wednesday – was no great coup for either the Tacoma Education Association or the school district.

The 2011 Legislature had ordained a 1.9 percent cut in teacher compensation, and it eliminated funding earmarked for holding down class size. In the end, the TEA – which had sought reductions in class sizes – more or less hung on to the status quo, though it gave up a training day that translated into a .5 percent pay cut.

The real flash point was the district’s insistence that administrators be allowed more discretion over which schools teachers are assigned. The union insisted on a traditional system that emphasized seniority.
Read more »

Sep.
23rd

SCC’s time running out on McNeil Island?

State Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Bellevue, visited recently to talk about the most recent revenue forecast (a shortfall of $1.2 billion to $2 billion) and provide some background on what can and can’t be cut when the Legislature goes into special session in November.

As chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Hunter is one of the Legislature’s main budget writers. So it’s worth mentioning that he said one revenue saver would be to move the Special Commitment Center for violent sex offenders off McNeil Island.

That’s been discussed before, but now seems all but inevitable with the closure of

Read more »