Pam's Points: On change, progress, progress and humanity

Pam's Points: On change, progress, progress and humanity

May 2nd, 2014 in Opinion Times

The perks of health care

A new investor report from S&P Capital IQ suggests that publicly traded companies could save $700 billion by 2025 if they shift 90 percent of their work force from job-based health coverage to individual insurance sold on the nation's insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act.

Already the howls are beginning from the conservatives.

But wait, the Standard & Poor's 500 companies are smart firms and they see value - both for them and their workers.

Neil Irwin, a senior economics correspondent for The New York Times, writes that the S&P research report is not an outlandish notion. Ezekiel Emanuel, an architect of the Affordable Care Act, has long predicted a similar shift.

Irwin and Emanuel note that while corporate savings will accrue to companies' bottom lines, it also is a good assumption that some will end up in the pockets of American workers in the form of higher wages or other benefits. After all, employers got into the health care insurance business in the first place because they needed to attract workers.

Now corporate accountants see a way to get out of the insurance maze to save money and still keep their valuable but hard-to-afford employees with pre-existing and high-cost illnesses. Those folks now can't be rejected by new insurance plans.

As for attracting good workers, companies can still do that with raises, or even stipends to help pay for health insurance on the exchanges. The bonus for corporate managers is that those stipends and raises, unlike health care costs, are budget-steady.

But, would this mean you can't keep your insurance if you like it? Not necessarily.

For instance, you might have some variety of BlueCross BlueShield insurance now, right? Guess what: On the new insurance marketplace exchange, Blue Cross offers a variety of plans that are probably very similar - maybe better - than what you now have through your employer. And you - not your employer - would get to choose the plan that best fits you, just as you already choose your own car insurance and your own home insurance.

For years, Americans have been decrying the rising cost of health care and many workers have wrung their hands as their employers changed insurance plans every year or two, while still raising either the cost of worker premiums or insurance co-pays - or both.

We all want change until change is upon us. This time, just don't assume the worst. Instead, do your own research and look for progress and results. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Humanity and executions

A botched execution in Oklahoma is prompting new concerns about Tennessee's method of carrying out the death penalty.

Opponents of capital punishment have sent an open letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam asking him to look at problems with the Volunteer State's death penalty system because the laws here are similar to those in Oklahoma. The Sooner State is where a death row inmate died of a massive heart attack Tuesday after prison officials stopped the flow of his lethal injection drugs due to complications.

In Oklahoma and Tennessee, the lethal injection cocktails - and where the drugs come from - are cloaked in secrecy. That secrecy is the reason a number of Tennessee death row inmates have filed suit against the state. They say the secrecy is a violation of an inmate's constitutional rights.

Tennessee has 10 prisoners scheduled to be executed, the first on Oct. 7.

Since 1976, more than 140 people have been released from death row because evidence proved them innocent. Three of those were from Tennessee, and a new report indicates that 1 in 25 death row inmates nationally is innocent.

If, as a state and nation, we intend to keep capital punishment, we must do better than this.