Letters - February 24, 2006

Representative says health care needs help

There are few issues facing our state as pressing or serious as affordable health care. Fortunately, most people in our state are covered by health insurance plans provided by their employers.

But for a disturbing number of Delaware families, the cost of buying health coverage makes it unattainable. What is just as troubling is that the number of families facing this dilemma is growing. State officials believe as many as 97,000 Delawareans are without healthcare coverage — a jump of 12,000 from the previous year.

Many of these people are self-employed or work for small businesses. I attempted to address this unfortunate reality through the introduction of House Bill 372 in 2004. The measure, which sought to allow small and medium-sized businesses to get coverage by buying into the state’s healthcare plan, died in the House Appropriations Committee.

When the 143rd General Assembly session began in 2005, I re-introduced my proposal. Like its predecessor, House Bill 66 would allow businesses to purchase coverage through the state’s group health insurance program. The benefit is obvious. By being part of a pool of more than 100,000 people (i.e. - state workers, their families, etc.) these businesses could purchase coverage at lower premiums than otherwise would have been the case.

Under HB 66, businesses would be responsible for paying all costs associated with their premiums. The legislation stipulates that there would be no cost to the state - no Delaware taxpayer would face any additional burden.

The concept embodied by HB 66 is already in use. In fact, thousands of people who are not full-time state employees already obtain their healthcare coverage in this fashion. Volunteer fire companies, county workers, municipal employees and other groups are all eligible under existing law to buy their healthcare coverage by piggy-backing onto the state plan. If this system has proven workable for these individuals, I do not see any legitimate reason why those employed by small businesses should not be able do the same.

The no-cost aspect of my legislation contrasts sharply with a bill backed by Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn. SB 146 seeks to set up a large pool of uninsured individuals and small businesses that could purchase coverage collectively at cheaper rates. While this measure was introduced after both of my bills, it is not an improvement. It creates additional state bureaucracy by setting up a new state agency to administer the program and a Delaware Reinsurance Fund that would reimburse insurance companies in cases where families needed unusually expensive health care. Taxpayers would have to shell out an estimated $12.4 million in the program’s first full year of operation.

When the General Assembly returns to work in mid-March, I plan to fine-tune my legislation. One amendment I’ll be introducing will limit eligibility in the program to businesses with 50 employees or fewer. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 90 percent of the businesses with more than 50 employees currently provide some type of healthcare benefits to their workers. Thus, this amendment will target the bill to deal with the group that needs this benefit most.

Another amendment would mandate certain state residency requirements and better define how people could get in and out of the program.

I urge anyone who supports my proposal to contact their state legislators. Tell them to release House Bill 66 from the House Economic, Banking and Insurance Committee and allow it to be debated and voted on in the House and Senate. I firmly believe that if this happens, the merits of this bill will carry it forward. There are nearly 100,000 Delawareans who direly need this bill to get the fair consideration it deserves.

State Rep. Joe Booth
37th District

Delaware on a bad roll on many fronts

Just reading the daily news on a regular basis is getting to be a very depressing thing. Every day there are signs that there is an undercurrent system of good-old-boy and -girl networks that flow from county councils to the legislature and up to the governor.

This tangle of interests covers the real intent of the elected officials we have put in office, and that is to benefit themselves, their friends and relatives and developers who are planning to make a gigantic slum of Delaware down to the very coast. There are few elected officials who stay clear of that web and it is our duty to determine who they are and to continue to elect them only.

The latest signs are the collapse of DelDOT’s funding which is at zero, the threat of a 60 percent increase in electric rates throughout the state, and the proposal to increase density in housing developments in Sussex County. These and other effects of dense overdevelopment will eventually cost every resident higher taxes.

They all fall under the development cloud. This is due to the general decrease in consideration for long-time residents of Kent and Sussex. The Sussex County Council seems to be mesmerized by the greedy developers who maneuver the Positive Growth Alliance into cooperation with the Council to approve developments that stagger the imagination in the most unfit and unlikely locations.

The most amazing is the thousands of units developers are proposing to swamp poor little old Milton with and destroy its peaceful little-town character. No consideration is made to those who oppose this; the Council merely tolerates their opposition and keeps steering the developers toward a development conformation that they can appear to approve. The don’t know how to say “No” and make it stick. It makes you wonder why.

To make matters worse, the Council is composed of members who do not live in the most heavily populated eastern part of Sussex County, but they heavily dictate the stagnant traffic conditions and overdevelopment that now permeate living there. They refuse to give the residents there an equal voice on the Council, aided by their friend Thurman Adams in the legislature, who will not allow a vote on permitting election of two more council members which may give voice to eastern Sussex.

This is just an unfair lack of action on Adams’ part. It effectively denies a voting voice on the Council to those living near the coast.

The concentration of western Sussex council members wants to continue to dictate to the entire county. They are presently planning to play the same overdevelopment game on the eastern part of Sussex with their plans to add sewage systems and other infrastructure that will then allow heavy development there. The plans are already in place, and when the sewage goes in, the “For Sale” signs go up — and who knows who on the Council or their buddies will personally profit by it?

The chief driver of all of this mess is that overdevelopment is behind all of the above problems. A 60 percent increase in electric rates cannot be attributed to a like increase in crude oil. Could it be so Delmarva Power can cover the cost of past and future electric utilities it must provide to the developers? How many other costs are being dropped and continue to be dropped onto the tax load on current residents to allow the continuing development scams to go on?

Keep in mind: they cannot happen or continue without the cooperation of some those of our elected administration, top to bottom. It is left to us to determine who they are, for they exist behind the scenes.

It seems to be up to us to look out for our best interests and not to depend on those we have elected to do this for us.

Charles N. Valenti
Rehoboth Beach

School board needs our throughts and prayers

One thing that is inevitable in this game called life is change. When I was a little girl, there was absolutes. Right was right and wrong was wrong. Black was black and white was white. Now there is so many gray areas in everything. Common sense has slowly drifted out of so many things and not for our good.

Where did our country start? It started with Godly men and women who stood up for truth, righteousness and common sense. Our forefathers believed in our precious Creator and honored Him. Christianity was the strong root system which started this precious nation. Our leaders were strong men of God who went by the book — the Bible — and followed its truth and wisdom which produces godly morals and values.

It’s a fact that all of our historic documents from the Declaration of Independence to the Gettysburg Address have ref1ected Christianity, righteousness and well being for our country. If our nation didn’t have this Godly foundation, why is “In God We Trust” printed on our money? Why would a display of the Ten Commandments be on the facade of the Supreme Court?

When I was in school, we said the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, which quoted that we were “One Nation Under God.” No questions asked, it was the American thing to do. We were even shown a film of the Nativity at Christmas time, which celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ.

Needless to say, there is an increasing atheistic/secularist assault on our Judeo-Christian heritage which threatens our beliefs, our rights and our freedom and the future of our precious children. We as true Americans arc not fooled by the myth of “separation of church and state.” Bottom line, it’s been misinterpreted, as it docs not mean separation of God and government.

Needless to say, there is so much judicial abuse all over this country for no legitimate reason. And now even in Sussex County. Our school board is being threatened and possibly sued because a prayer was prayed at the graduation service. If there was ever a time for us to take a stand and support our school board in every way possible, now is the time.

I’m asking you precious men and women of God to please pray about this situation and support our school board in every way possible. We cannot allow fear to cause us to bow down to our enemy in any way and we won’t. We have our Godly rights and values and we will win this battle, no matter what.

Connie Lathbury