Many years ago, my father told me about going to a Chautauqua lecture when he was a teen. The subject was the Malthusian Theory, that unchecked population growth would overwhelm the land’s capacity to provide enough. The results would be starvation, disease, war and chaos. The speaker’s solution was pure, simple, painless euthanasia, putting away people after their sixtieth year. Considering the possible implications for the world, Dad unselfishly agreed. His father, however, was not as convinced, nor was he any longer.
Indeed, the population of the country has increased tremendously — 132,000,000 about the time I entered kindergarten to nearly 300,000,000 — and life expectancy has risen from 49 in my grandfather’s day to the high seventies. The first “baby boomers” retire this year. The earth still provides abundantly, but other factors we cherish for this life are failing us.
One of the things making this expansion and longevity possible was medical insurance. When insurers seriously entered the health care sector 60 years ago, the premiums were affordable for most middle class families, less than 10 percent of average income. The increased use of health services generated much of the monies needed by science and technology to raise medical care to where we are today.
The tragedy is that this affordability is being lost. Between 2000 and 2008, health insurance premiums rose 100 percent. The premium for a family of four is about $15,600 annually, 25 percent of their income. When medical care coverage became a company benefit, a surge of providers seeing a lucrative market appeared, mushrooming in the 1970s with the HMOs and PPOs, supposedly designed to reduce or, at least, hold costs in line. One Blue Cross/Blue Shield estimate has 1,300 private insurers now offering 17,000 plans in the Chicago area.
Unfortunately, as health maintenance and hospital management corporations prospered and attained almost monopolistic power, cost containment has not been achieved, and possibly, though tooted, may not even be an objective. One item is significant. Administrative costs of private insurers run between 19.9 percent and 26.5 percent of benefits, a very important number in actuating the premium. I can’t believe some politicians would vote to privatize Medicare at 3 percent.
And the premiums will probably continue to rise. Profitability of the plans takes precedence over benefit or affordability to the patient. My Medicare supplement premium is slated to increase $107 per month in two years when I turn 80. No wonder these corporations have created such a stigma against socialized medicine or a single-payer plan such as Rep. Conyers’ (HR-676). Yet do the 61 percent of those who do receive medical coverage realize it is a form of socialized medicine? These are government employees, military, VA, Medicare, Medicaid, school teachers, etc., who receive these benefits from taxpayers who don’t receive the same in return. Likewise, company benefits are expenses factored into the prices of products and services, whether the consumer receives in kind or not.
Not agriculture proving Malthus right, economics is taking us down the road.
Cap on fees
After reading the Pagosa Lake Home Owners Association winter newsletter, for December and received in January, I note the board will vote in December on budget for 2009. Assessment was addressed, i.e., stating will remain the same for 2009.
This assessment of $200 needs to remain for some time, I think many agree. In fact, I believe we need a cap put on this fee. Most of us that live here question what we get for our $200, which was $160 two years ago.
I am proposing to the board a cap of $100 now and a ten year cap and no more than a $10-$20 increase in the future. I know there are folks that could care less about the dollar figure, but for us that do care, a cap is the answer!
Personally, I feel I pay more and get less in my 8 years, i.e., now pay to put a boat on the water, increase in fishing for lakes within the association. Yet I read how the association is going to spend money to photo each home yearly. I am sure gas expenses will occur and I do not think spending money in this means is necessary.
If we continue to raise assessment fees, also known as dues, dues will be more than our taxes.
Folks, if you agree, contact your PLOA board now, 731-5635, 1-888-467-5762, Fax, (970)731-5362 or write, 230 Port Ave., Pagosa Springs, CO 81147-9486.