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By John Martie
Each year, you receive the same e-mail alerting you that the open enrollment period for your health benefits has arrived. And every year, the e-mail goes from the inbox to the deleted box before you can say “deductible.” But this year, it might pay to actually read that email before you hit delete.
As health costs continue to rise, employers are beginning to offer new and innovative benefit options that have the potential to save you a lot of money. For example, consumer driven health plans (CDHPs), which typically combine low premiums with a higher deductible and an opportunity to save money tax-free for health care expenses, are showing up more frequently on employers’ menu of health plan options.
In fact, a survey conducted by Forrester Research last year estimated that more than a quarter of all employers will likely offer CDHP plans to their employees by 2010.
CDHP plans won’t work for everyone. Those who expect to incur high health care costs over the course of the year would likely prefer to pay higher premiums in exchange for more generous coverage. However, employees who would prefer lower premiums as they save their money tax-free for a “rainy day” may find that a CDHP is a wise investment, especially as employers continue to ask employees to cover a larger share of their health costs.
One of the major benefits of CDHP plans is that they are often coupled with new technologies that allow you to take more control over the health care dollars you spend. For instance, some insurers, including Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, provide online personal health records, which allow consumers to “own” all of their health information and share it with doctors as they see fit. These records, which are automatically populated by claims data, give members and their doctors a complete picture of their health and have the potential to save them money by eliminating the need for unnecessary tests or repeat procedures.
In addition, a growing number of CDHP consumers are now able to go online and compare the cost and quality of various services offered by providers in their area. These tools help them to be better consumers of health care and have direct control over how and where their money is spent. By using these tools, a savvy consumer can save plenty of money by managing both their health and finances online.
CDHP plans certainly have a ways to go before they are on par with traditional plans in terms of membership, but the initial data is encouraging. A recent Anthem survey showed that 92 percent of members said they were likely to re-enroll in their CDHP plans.
The health care system is changing rapidly, and your employer is surely doing everything it can to keep up and make sure you have access to the most cost effective, high quality care available. With a little research, you have the chance to benefit. During this open enrollment period, arm yourself with the information you’ll need to navigate the sometimes complicated health care terrain. A little time may save you a lot of money.
John Martie is the president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Colorado.
Take out the saving money "tax free" and you have a CDHP. The Health Savings Accounts portion of this cost more than they are worth. In order to get a high deductible plan which allows one to have a HSA it is necessary to pay nearly as much as for a full coverage plan. If the government would allow anyone to have a HSA then they would become very useful. As it stands now the cost of the plans with HSA are too high for most of us to afford so we simply put the difference from the high cost plan and our low cost plan into an everyday savings account and still are better off. We need to lobby our senators and congresspeople to relax the incredibly stringent rules on HSAs so that more of us can have the luxury of saving for our health needs "tax free".Posted by art on November 15, 2007 07:39 AM
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For 131 years Colorado has seen both boom and bust. The explosive population and economic growth of Denver and the Front Range, in contrast to the depopulation and chronic economic decline of Colorado’s farm and ranch communities is but the current iteration of an old theme.
The more interesting story is how entrepreneurs and innovative rural communities have persevered and developed strategies to revitalize their Main Streets and create a better future for small towns as well as family farms and ranches. But local initiative must be matched by public policies that empower rural people rather than undermine them. Sadly, the federal government is not meeting the challenge.
In a recent analysis, we found the U.S. Department of Agriculture spent three times as much in farm program payments to Colorado’s 20 biggest farm subsidy recipients as it spent supporting rural development in the 20 Colorado counties suffering the greatest population loss or slowest population gain. The 20 largest farm subsidy recipients received over $18 million in farm program payments over three years. Meanwhile, 20 counties with over 153,000 residents in 66 municipalities received only $6 million over a comparable period for business assistance, community facilities, community and regional development, housing and community infrastructure. Top farm program recipients received an average of over $900,000 over three years while residents of the greatest depopulation counties received about $14 per person per year in federal rural development support.
In other words, our federal tax dollars supported the 20 biggest farmers in Colorado at nearly three times the level of support for the rural development needs of over 153,000 residents in rural communities suffering Colorado’s greatest depopulation and economic distress. And the House Farm Bill would only make matters worse.
The House Farm Bill raised the limits on some payments and retains huge loopholes that allow mega-farms to receive unlimited farm payments. It hides behind a means test that purportedly denies payments to millionaires. But it is riddled with loopholes that the nation’s largest farms and wealthiest real estate investors can slide right through.
Meanwhile, the House Farm Bill provided virtually no funding for rural development initiatives that would assist rural areas in developing their economies and their communities.
Actions such as those risk continuing the depopulation spiral being witnessed in much of rural Colorado, a spiral that begins with a troubled economy, more migration out of a community, economic and institutional consolidation and eventually little in the way of economic opportunity for remaining residents. The result is a lower tax base, leaving small towns hamstrung by an inability to invest in development or repair vital infrastructure - a key to keeping and attracting people and businesses. Recent events in New York and Minnesota demonstrate how fragile the nation’s core infrastructure is. It is no different in rural communities; aging infrastructure in nearly every community harms the quality of life of current residents and limits future development.
But there is hope. Senator Ken Salazar has cosponsored a Rural Entrepreneur and Microenterprise Assistance Act to support rural small business development. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) has proposed investing substantially more in rural development.
And Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have proposed legislation to close loopholes and make the limitations on mega farm payments real limits.
Colorado and the nation are well-served with strong and equitable farm programs. But farm programs can and should be reformed to benefit rural communities and all of society. Farm program payments should be strictly limited to benefit small and mid-sized farmers and beginning farmers and their ability to access land. That would make farm programs fairer and save money to invest in the future of rural communities.
Should the federal government provide bigger subsidies to the nation’s biggest farms to drive their neighbors out of business? Or, should the Farm Bill focus on supporting family-scale agriculture and investing in the future of rural communities? The answer to this central issue of the 2007 Farm Bill will determine the future path of many rural communities - revitalization or deeper distress.
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By Mark Hillman
So, it appears the honeymoon is over for Governor Ritter, the business community, and even some of his strongest backers in the media.
(I know, a “three-way” honeymoon isn’t a pleasant image, but you know what they say about politics and strange bedfellows.)
The spat that initially fissured over a union organizing bill last spring erupted into an all-out, yelling-and-screaming, lamp-throwing, talk-to-my-lawyer divorce when Ritter played a little too cute in his latest dance with organized labor.
Last spring’s bill, you will recall, would have made it easier for labor bosses to “twist” arms to coerce workers to join unions or lose their jobs. Legislative Democrats lined up unanimously to do the bidding of their union pals, but heat from the business community emboldened Ritter to dig out his lightly-used veto pen.
Since then, the governor has been bending over backward to make it up to Big Labor. Late last Friday, those efforts came to fruition in a so-called “partnership agreement” between Ritter and state-employee unions.
State employees — already protected by a civil service code so anachronistic that the last three governors have tried unsuccessfully to change it — can now choose a labor union to carry their water to the governor.
Given the pull organized labor has with this administration and the Democratic legislature, you have to wonder if these “partnership agreements” aren’t entirely too much formality. A simple e-mail seems to do the trick just fine these days.
The irony for a governor who basks in ceremony and symbolism — just try opening a new wind farm without him — is that he tried to slide this landmark labor deal under the door late last week just as newsrooms were emptying for the weekend. No big announcement with photo ops of Ritter arm-and-arm with union bosses on the steps of the state capitol. An otherwise inconspicuous e-mail press release heralded this development.
Business leaders and legislative Republicans, spoiling for a redux of last year’s labor debacle, were not only caught flat-footed, but they also questioned why Ritter chose to implement the plan via executive order rather than through the legislature, where it would most surely pass.
The “official” answer from the Ritter administration is that state employees operate under the executive branch. Tell that to the legislature that’s responsible for approving the state budget.
The unofficial answer is that Ritter would rather weather what he hopes will be a brief firestorm following his executive order than to face the prolonged agony of being portrayed as a union waterboy for weeks or months while a bill winds through the legislative process.
The same governor who vetoed last spring’s labor bill because it lacked compromise and because the debate accompanying it was “overheated,” now avoids any meaningful dialogue whatsoever, including input from business leaders who once believed his business-friendly campaign mantra.
Whatever the case, it seems that Bill Ritter has concluded that the most expedient means to an end is the route that most restricts the opportunity for public dissent. No more “Mr. Nice Guv.”
That’s the way he instituted a $114 million-a-year property tax increase — despite clear constitutional language that requires a public vote on any “tax policy change directly causing a net revenue gain.” Incidentally, for anyone who still fantasizes that Ritter is business-friendly, $63 million of that tax increase comes from non-residential (read: business) property owners.
Until now, anyone who pointed out Ritter’s various inadequacies — his dearth of legislative experience, his severely limited breadth on issues beyond criminal justice, and his general lack of preparation to lead a state government — was met with, “Well, yeah, but he’s such a nice guy.”
Now, Colorado can see that when forced to choose between doing what’s best for the state’s economy and throwing political plums to his labor overlords, Ritter knows where his loyalty must rest.
Perhaps from this point forward we can finally discuss Bill Ritter’s merits, not just his pleasing personality.
Mark Hillman is a former majority leader of the Colorado Senate. To read more or comment, visit www.markhillman.com.
I knew my vote would be wasted if I didn't vote for Ritter.I voted against him anyway.
Why?Because any Law Enforcement official that would over and over charge illegals committing crimes with, Agricultural Trespass and not enforce the laws should not be running a State .He also has no business experience.He also was a D. A. they are used to telling people what to do without working with others.
So pretty boy ain't so pretty anymore?
Life is like a box of chocolates,you never know what your gonna get.
Politicians are like a box of chocolates you never know what your gonna get.Posted by Can I get an AMEN! on November 15, 2007 07:08 AM
I didn't vote for the Governor, and I doubt that I'll have any reason to rethink that decision.
The honeymoon is over, Ritter's first "moral" budget is already in Chapter II--totally bankrupt and requiring a series of massive tax hikes--to bail out his butt. Ritter put the potential tax receipts of the energy-rich Vermillion out of bounds, hecan't wipe his but without instructions from a Blue Ribbion Commission, he goes green without any cost-benefit analysis offered to those who will pick up his tab and to top it all off, he invited the union camel to stick its head into the tent!
A classic one-termer, this clown needs to join Homer Simpson full-time at the power plant.Posted by Hank on November 14, 2007 01:31 PM
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By Pam Myyers
1. A researcher claims that he has identiifed the genetic marker for homosexuality. Should this prove true
2. In vitro technology is improving daily. In animal husbandry is it possible to transport cattle embryos in small animals and then implant them in cows. Were this technology approved for human beings would it be an acceptable alternative to abortion to remove the embryo and implant or freeze it? Should this be the legal replacement for abortion? Should funding to provide this service come from taxes?
3. If a method of birth control were developed that was 100% effective, 100% safe and cheap would it be acceptable if it required that it be administered before menstruation begins?
6. A pregnant girl obtains an abortion without her parents’ knowledge or consent. She suffers complications and requires medical treatment. Who is responsible for the cost of this treatment? Should it be legal to charge a clinic for malpractice when the patient is a minor?
7. A new law provides that a man cannot be held responsible for child support if the woman resides in a state where abortion is legal and he offers to pay for it. The catch is that in order to take advantage of this law the man must undergo a vasectomy. Fair or not and to whom?
8. In the example above the man must be held responsible unless the woman has previously had an abortion. The money will be paid to the state even if the woman declines it. She must have her tubes tied during childbirth or immediately afterwards to take advantage of this law. Fair or not and to whom?
9. Children born to mothers unable to care for them will be removed from them at birth and placed in an orphanage situation or foster care. At the end of a year the mother’s parental rights are forfeit if she does not show ability to care for her child by then. A tax on all churches and religious communities of 10% of their collections or fifteen dollars per adult member would be used to pay for this along with a fifty dollar surcharge on each abortion. How would this work? How would you change it?
10. National health care is under contemplation. There will be enough votes to pass it only if abortion is not provided as a service. In fact, the main selling point is that no doctor could collect any government funds if they participated in abortions. No coverage for any abortion service other than to save the life of the mother would be allowed. Settle for that or wait for another plan?
Frankly I’m tired of both sides yelling without thinking. Can we please have some answers to these questions based on thought?
Pam Myyers is a resident of Thornton.
Black bread in turkey stuffing?Sounds GOOD ! I'm going to talk with Mrs.Jimminy about that.Posted by Jimminy on November 14, 2007 10:31 PM
Great answers but would you please give us your thoughts in a bit longer format? The idea is to make people think, not make them think any of this is actual fact.
OK you can be king of the forest if I can be Empress of the kitchen. (Just took a sneak trip to the kitchen to start a new set of loaves in the bread machine. Gotta have black bread in the turkey stuffing and there are now 7 of them to get ready and cooked. Looks like most of the family got out and bought the biggest turkey they could find. They are in the fridge at my mothers right now. Should all be thawed by Tuesday.)Posted by Pam Myyers Thornton, CO on November 14, 2007 01:06 AM
Oops! Forgot #6.No one is required to pay for malpractice,and assault laws DO apply to minors.Posted by Jimminy on November 14, 2007 12:37 AM
Well,if I were King of the Forest,the answers would be:
#8- More BS
#9- That's moot.Most of it is what goes on now.
#10-No answer possible.Unrealistic premises.
Interesting thought experiment.Thanx.
Good questions. Good luck getting objective answers to them.Posted by Hans Christian Brando on November 11, 2007 10:58 AM
In answer to your first question, if abortion for any reason is legal, as it is today, then the answer is yes. Having an abortion to prevent the birth of a gay child is a legal as having an abortion to prevent the birth of a child you don't feel like caring for. They are both callous, indifferent and inhuman reasons for having an abortion. But what do you expect? Abortion is a callous, indifferent and inhuman procedure.Posted by John Newman on November 10, 2007 02:31 PM
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The writer said, “The climate changes we see today are but pinpricks in the history of the Earth.”
Radio jock Mike Rosen, a pretend-intellectual, a man who speaks and writes before researching what he’s addressing, stands nostril deep in his own uninformed opinions.
I lived in Antarctica 10 years ago working with top scientists from around the world. I wrote a book: “An Extreme Encounter: Antarctica” about my research where the bolt goes into the bottom of the globe. I knew about global warming at that time from the research arriving from precise scientific study. However, it still hadn’t begun its impact like it’s happening in this decade.
“The problems in the world today are so enormous they cannot be solved with the level of thinking that created them.” Einstein Amazingly, the Castle Rock LTE writer and Rosen write via emotions instead of understanding. They need to refer to Einstein’s quote with their anachronistic thinking. Hundreds of the top scientists from around the world find that global warming, in this case, in this time period—is not natural—but man made.
Every day around the planet, human beings burn 84 million barrels of oil that spews countless tons of carbon dioxide into the air annually. How much oil is that? If you take one barrel of oil at 20 inches in diameter at its base, and you place 84 million of them side by side, they will circle the earth at the equator more than 25,000 miles.
When you include that we burn millions of metric tons of natural gas along with billions of tons of coal annually, then, you burn uncounted tons of wood worldwide—voila—you’ve got massive and unending amounts of carbon dioxide pouring into the atmosphere 24/7. Any fool with a three digit IQ might discern something’s got to give with imbalance occurring planet-wide.
That horrific amount of exhaust blocks the ability of the warm air to dissipate into the stratosphere. It’s like placing a huge blanket around the planet. It’s like you wearing a wool sweater and down coat with gloves and playing basketball all day in Denver at 100 degrees of heat. Result: you’ll cook yourself to death.
To top it off, the human race grew from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 6.7 in 2007.
We’re on our way to 9.2 billion by mid century. Everything we do multiplies the factors stated above.
In other words, we’re destroying the balancing and support systems of this planet beyond its ability to maintain a viable environment for humans and all living creatures.
Whether you think global warming proves man made or nature doing her thing
Worse, we will add 100 million car driving, coal and home heating oil burning humans to the United States in the next 33 years by 2040. China, now hell bent for leather to place a car in every garage for 1.3 billion people
“Can you think of any problem on any scale, from microscopic to global whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way aided, assisted, or advanced by having larger populations in our town, our cities, our states, our nation or the world?” CU’s Dr. Albert Bartlett As noted at the front of this column, the Castle Rock writer and Mike Rosen show themselves totally out of touch with reality on global warming. They both need a refresher course in college science and high school critical thinking. Logic might add to their enlightenment. In the case of Rosen, I doubt it. He’s locked into his 20th century paradigm and thinking.
Frosty Wooldridge is a resident of Louisville.
Good to hear from you! Keep up the
good work you do.
Shameless Al (Chicken Little) Gore and all the other apocalyptical doom predictors like him have always been wrong. The sky is not falling.
Go to the link to see what the founder of the Weather Channel thinks.Posted by Matt on November 10, 2007 12:46 PM
Man caused GHG's is but 0.2% of total global GHC's. The USA contributes 1/5 of that. If a football field represents all global GHC's, the GHC's from the USA is only 1.7".
We are insignificant and the hoax is finally being exposed.
Ok, I think we know what humans can do about it now, apparently NOTHING.Posted by brain on November 9, 2007 08:22 PM
Hank is right! Don't you people see? All but a handful of (oil company hired) scientists in the world all participated in a global conspiracy to "cook" the data and to invent this whole global warming fraud. There is competing evidence out there - but the megalomaniac liberal scientists have stifled it! All of their facts are false! All of their conclusions are lies! And if you notice its warmer you're as crazy as they are! And when have scientists been right about anything ever? It's like when I hear that nonsense about smoking causing cancer - I know a guy who lived to 85 and smoked a pack of day! Whaddya say to that, wackjob scientists?!?
Gotta go - the O'Reilly Factor's starting!
CHINA--WHOSE GDP WILL PASS THE USA IN ABOUT 35 YEARS--IS BUILDING COAL-FIRED POWER-PLANTS AT A RATE OF ONE EVERY OTHER DAY....That's right, over 150 per year. Do you think that they are using clean coal of scrubbers?
All you global warming geeks are going to die from either drowning, lung pollution or being incinerated. I for one, along with other non-gullibles, are not participating in your foolish hysteria.Posted by Hank on November 9, 2007 02:15 PM
MORE GLOBAL WARMING MYTHS & REALITIES:Posted by Hank on November 9, 2007 02:05 PM
I guess we're all dead then because nothing we do will prevent this with the escalation in population and developing countries who will use the cheapist form of power. Even if we stopped driving and buring coal to produce electricity for those new plug in cars in America, can we get the rest of the world to follow?Posted by kv on November 9, 2007 01:56 PM
JOHN COLEMAN, FOUNDER OF THE WEATHER CHANNEL, ON "GLOBAL WARMING" :
HOAX...SCAM! The global warming hoax is finally being peeled like an onion. More and more folks in the scientific community are speaking out against this snake-oil as delivered by Al Gore. GW is nothing but a new-age religion that is based on guilt and fear, the only way out for the gullible and guilty zealots are carbon credit-indulgences. Elmer Gantry couldn't have done a better job, himself!Posted by Hank on November 9, 2007 01:53 PM