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Talk of the town

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WINTHROP QUIGLEY concisely summarizes the sale of Lovelace Health Plan’s Medicare Advantage and commercial businesses to Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico in his article, “Blue Cross cleared to acquire Lovelace Health Plan on Sunday” (May 28).

The U.S. Department of Justice stalled approval of the purchase out of concern that it would significantly limit consumer choice for insurance products in the state.

BCBSNM now moves to take unprecedented market share of New Mexico’s insured population, even as news breaks of a class-action lawsuit against Health Care Service Corp., the parent company operating BCBSNM.

The suit claims the parent company breached its contract with members by accumulating excess profits of about $4.9 billion. And rather than disbursing that money to members through dividends, cheaper drugs or lower premiums, the company paid nearly $100 million in bonuses to its top 10 executives.

The nonprofit, mutually held insurer is neither acting like a nonprofit nor providing substantial mutual benefits to its members.

As a fourth-year medical student, every day I am confronted with the profit-maximizing schemes of private insurers. They avoid the sick, collect premiums, deny claims, and shift more and more costs onto my patients.

BCBSNM plays the same games as their for-profit counterparts and the endless pursuit of profits hurts all of us, but especially sick New Mexicans.

This picture is unjust and unacceptable. That’s why I and an increasing number of medical students are calling for replacing the private health insurance industry with a streamlined, publicly accountable health care system, such as “single payer,” also known as “improved Medicare for all.”

JAMES BESANTE

Albuquerque

As I write this letter, Congress is voting to increase and make permanent more corporate welfare, and calling it tax reform. Over the past 25 years, Congress has introduced billions worth of special tax breaks for corporations and now they’re at it again.

We average citizens have finally become aware of just how rigged this corporate welfare game is and that’s why I’m saying the jig is up! Everyone knows this is unfair, as well as unsustainable. The current proposal would cost you and me – because someone has to make this up – $301 billion over the next 10 years because they are not even proposing offsets to pay for this.

I’m writing to encourage all of your readers to contact their senators and representatives in Washington. Let them know that corporate welfare is not your priority. Then ask them to cast their votes for increasing and making permanent the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit – which are set to expire in 2017 – because until folks have an opportunity to earn a living wage, I believe our priorities should be to support our hard-working neighbors instead of the corporations who are hoarding trillions of dollars. I hope you agree that these programs are far more important than corporate welfare.

Corporations used to pay 40 percent of our tax revenue – in 1943 – but pay only 10 percent today and they are hard at work spending millions lobbying to pay even less. Please don’t let this week go by without making your priorities known.

DEE IVY

Albuquerque

RE: NEW WEST Mesa development. I don’t have any problem with development, as long as there are enough natural resources and pre-installed infrastructure to handle it.

Our city, county and state governments need to quit selling out to any and every land developer who has these grandiose pipe dreams, without any foundation to stand on.

And water? Where do they think the people of those communities are going to get what’s not there to begin with?

RICHARD COOK

Albuquerque

ALL NEW MEXICANS should be concerned about the ineptitude of NMED and Kirtland in dealing with the Kirtland jet fuel spill.

In the 15 years since Kirtland acknowledged the spill, the exact size and location of the contamination have not been specified, and clean-up efforts have been minimal. Soil vapor extraction units have removed a small amount of contamination from the soil, but the vast majority of the contamination – tens of millions of gallons – is now in the aquifer, and has been for over ten years.

SVE will not remove contamination from water. Now NMED and Kirtland have agreed to implement a pilot air sparging system to attempt to remove contamination from a small area of the aquifer. However, if they had done their homework, they would have found out that air sparging is not an effective remediation strategy for EDB, the most carcinogenic and toxic of the chemicals in the jet fuel, and can in fact be counterproductive by causing the EDB to spread. Time spent on this pilot program will be time wasted.

To its credit, the Water Utility Board has proposed its own remediation strategy: seven “pump and treat” wells to be placed along the leading edge of the contamination plume. The problem with this approach is that the contamination is likely to go underneath the extraction wells, drawn towards the deeper municipal drinking wells. If this very large and dangerous spill, the largest in our nation’s history, is ever to be cleaned up, we need to bring in an expert task force from out of state to assess the situation and make recommendations for remediation.

The N.M. Legislature passed HJM 13 earlier this year, which calls for the creation of such a task force; however, to date, no progress has been made. Contact our congressional delegation – Rep. (Michelle) Lujan Grisham, Sen. (Tom) Udall and Sen. (Martin) Heinrich – and demand that HJM 13 be implemented. The future of our city depends upon it.

DR. BEVERLY BURRIS

Albuquerque

Very regularly, I see letters in the Journal that criticize President Obama for his failure to do this, that or the other. For example, the failure of the Department of Veterans Affairs to deliver adequate health care to our veterans.

I wonder if these critics understand how our government works. The president can only propose legislation or propose a budget, but nothing is possible until Congress initiates and approves and sends the president a budget that they consider appropriate. All bills related to raising revenues must originate in the House of Representatives, which, as people may or may not know, is controlled right now by the Republican party, which will not approve an increase in taxes for any reason – and that includes veterans’ care.

The critics of the president need to understand that Congress makes all laws, and has authority over financial and budgetary policy. The Senate controls who the president is able to appoint for cabinet-level officials, federal judges and other high-level officers throughout the federal government.

We, the voters, have the ability to control what our government is able to do by who we put in office. If we want the president to be able to carry out his promises, we need to get out and vote, and we need to vote for people who will support his agenda. It is as simple as that.

ALFRED L. SALAS

Corrales

Mike Gallagher writes an interesting column (“Danger is a daily reality for APD officers,” May 27) about six APD officers who were killed in the line of duty.

Any careful reader will note that the six killings occurred over a span of almost 34 years. It is probable that these are not the only APD fatalities in the line of duty over that time period. However, compared to the 26 APD killings of civilians that have occurred over the past 5 years – and the number seems to be rising faster in recent months – one could conclude that it is a lot more dangerous to be a civilian facing an APD officer than it is for an APD officer facing a member of the civilian population, regardless of how dangerous or heavily “armed” that person may appear to be.

Clearly, not every APD officer uses unnecessary force in conducting business with the general population, even when making arrests of dangerous felons. But there seem to be no disciplinary actions taken against those officers who do exceed the amount of restraint or force necessary to apprehend a citizen. Instead, the officer is usually granted a paid vacation – paid administrative leave is the euphemism – and the APD closes ranks behind him until the public either forgets or focuses on the next overreaction by an APD officer. Then the media picks up the call for action again and the cycle continues.

Until some officers are charged with crimes for their excessive use of force and until some officers are suspended without pay for their excessive use of force, this cycle will continue. The police union does itself and its members no favor by continuing to condone the activities of every one of its members. The shame of some APD officers and the refusal of the APD hierarchy to take positive steps to rectify the situation with all deliberate speed is smearing the reputation of the entire department.

The Department of Justice has rendered a lengthy report on the excesses of the APD and the steps needed to stop that behavior. APD and the city of Albuquerque should move with something more than their current glacial speed to implement those findings.

RAYMOND A. BRANDWEIN

Albuquerque

THE ALBUQUERQUE Police Department is in the process of initiating changes in its infrastructure to comply with the Department of Justice investigation, which was recently completed.

The DOJ concentrated on APD’s alleged unnecessary use of deadly force resulting in multiple deaths. DOJ opined that officers carrying “big bore” firearms resulted in a violent culture and that the “big bore” handgun is a “status symbol,” specifically citing the Kimber .45 caliber pistol as an example of those causing this cultural attitude.

Since the investigative team was concerned about “big bore” pistols, it is appropriate to discuss the handguns issued to federal law enforcement agencies operating under the DOJ umbrella, which include, among others, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The above-named agencies have selected the “big bore” .40 caliber cartridge as the standard issue. The justification: The FBI conducts continuous research on ballistics. Based on this research, it was determined that the .40 caliber cartridge produces the penetration and physiological incapacitation to bring about cessation of a hostile activity and increase officer safety simultaneously. The recent DOJ investigative team would classify the .40 caliber cartridge as a “big bore.” Does this mean the “expert” team that is giving the orders doesn’t believe that local departments should have what they need? Or is it simply that no member of the investigative team has any experience with firearms or ballistics?

And with all the ballistic research available and the obvious superiority of the .40 caliber cartridge, why has the APD brass selected the 9 mm – converted, it is a .35 caliber – as standard issue? The fifth floor should be concerned enough with officer safety to use the fed’s own research as the basis for selecting the standard issue pistol. The job of the upper echelon is to make it possible for the officers on the streets to do their jobs and go home alive. Protect your officers and they will protect the community.

FRED L. WHITE

Corrales

In (the June 5) Journal, there is an article by Barbara K. Webber titled “New Mexicans are well served by health care reform.”

Webber puts a very positive spin on health care reform, stating how many New Mexicans can now get low or no-cost insurance. While I support making medical services available, the picture isn’t complete without talking about those New Mexicans who are paying for all this. Some of them don’t feel so well served.

For example, in our case, our health care insurance costs are 61 percent higher under health care reform. Not to mention the increased cost for Medicaid, which will come out as taxes somewhere. I think it is always fair when talking about the free or low-cost services of the government to also keep in mind and mention how those things are being funded.

WAYLAND K ADAMS

Albuquerque

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