For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
August 20, 2009 - health care plenty scary right now
Last week, on vacation, I drove down to Salida to see a friend. In the park across from the library was a health care protest. In tone, it was much like the many wild emails I've gotten lately about the scary takeover of medical care by big government.
I don't claim to be an expert. But speaking as an administrator of a public agency, I can tell you this: it's scary right now.
According to an article in the Washington Post (January 25, 2009), "A growing number of workers in 2009 will pay more for health benefits -- and in some cases receive less coverage -- as their employers grapple with the financial fallout of rising medical expenses and diminished revenue and profits."
In another article (Medical News Today), I read that, "In 1999, employers covered about 90% of the cost of health insurance for employees, compared with 73% today, and the percentage likely will decrease to 70% over the next few years."
It seems probable that many government agencies will freeze salaries next year. Why? Because revenues are down, just as in the private sector.
At the same time, a surprising number of my fellow public administrators are projecting health insurance premium increases of 25 percent. To put it another way, there will be less money in the public sector, and a larger percentage of it being transferred to private companies.
Alternatively, public and private employees alike may see a real reduction in their pay due to insurance company rate increases, and a shifting of those costs directly to workers.
Yet another report (by Health Care America Now!) asserts that "from 2000 to 2007, the median earnings of Colorado workers increased 16% from $25,390 to $30,476. During that time health insurance premiums for Colorado working families rose 4.8 times faster than median earnings."
Will those families get more coverage in exchange? It seems unlikely. Instead, many employers are pushing high-deductible "health savings accounts" and programs aimed at keeping workers healthy through diet and exercise. In itself, that's not a bad thing.
But why the big jump in costs?
In a piece from the AFL-CIO website, I read, "Profits at 10 of the country’s largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007, while consumers paid more for less coverage. One of the major reasons, according to a new study, is the growing lack of competition in the private health insurance industry that has led to near monopoly conditions in many markets."
It is common to hear people complaining, in scripted "tea parties" and so on, about out-of-control government. But I pay more for health insurance in one month than I do for schools in a whole year, for instance. And I have a lot less to say about it.
For schools or libraries, an increase in my costs buys me an increase in service. The insurance business doesn't seem to work like that. It increases its rates to ensure profits, despite the economy, and regardless of the effect on local business, local government, or the people who work for them.
As I say, I'm not an expert, but the situation does make me scratch my head. While I'm not sure outrage does any actual good, maybe a little more outrage should be directed toward the problem we have today, instead of at the attempt to do something about it.
LaRue's Views are his own.
P.S. After running this article, I asked our staff to pull together a list of further sources of information about this topic. You can find it at:
Happy (and healthy) reading!