Connect For Health Is Not Risky Business
By Leslie Herod

We have made great progress in Colorado since the Affordable Care Act became law but we still have work to do.
Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans have gained protection for their family finances and opened the door to getting needed health care. The number of Coloradans who have health insurance is at
an historic high, with 94 percent of the state’s residents covered.

But many in our community live without the protections to their health and to their family finances that come with having health insurance. Often it is because they don’t know that they could receive monthly financial help to pay for health insurance.

A single person can make as much as $48,560 a year and still get help buying health insurance. For a family offour the upper limit is around $100,000 a year. That help is like an 80 percent discount on the health insurance premium, on average. This year Connect for Health Colorado customers who qualify are paying an average monthly premium of $136.

And it’s getting better. Connect for Health Colorado analysis shows those customers who receive financial help will see the amount they pay go down an average of 24 percent if they stick with the same coverage next year. Two out of every three Connect for Health Colorado customers now receiving financial help could get coverage next year for $0 net premium.

It’s time to act. People who buy their own health insurance in Colorado can do it between November 1, 2018, and January 15, 2019. After that, it’s too late, unless you experience what’s called a “life change event,” like getting married, having a child or losing the insurance that you had through your job.
Too many people take their chances, betting they won’t need health insurance but in a time when a three-day hospital stay can easily cost more than $30,000, the numbers don’t back them up.

The number of Coloradans with health insurance climbed from 86 percent to 93 percent of the population (more than 97 percent for children) in the four years since the law was fully implemented.
In that time the number of personal bankruptcies in Colorado tied to medical bills dropped from 104,000 per year to 45,000, according to the Colorado Health Access Survey. Nationally it was the same story. The 1.5 million personal bankruptcies in 2010, dropped down to 770,000 by 2016.
With the options we have available now, there is just no reason to leave your family at risk. If you don’t have health insurance already, it’s time to go to to see what kind of options and help are available to you.

Editor’s note: Leslie Herod represents northeast Denver, District 8, in the Colorado House of Representatives.

Why Proposition 110 Is The  Only Real Option for Colorado
Op-ed by Gabriel Guillaume

With over $9 billion in deferred transportation infrastructure projects—and insufficient funds to complete them—Colorado is officially in a crisis.
This is especially true for Colorado’s low-income communities, where a lack of infrastructure can literally create life-or-death situations for residents. Proposition 110 is asking for six cents on each $10 purchase to solve many of these transportation problems—including fixing and enhancing roads and bridges as well as addressing lack of bus routes, crumbling sidewalks, and non-existent bike lanes. This sales tax does not apply to groceries, prescriptions, and utilities.

Forty percent of low-income communities have sidewalks, compared to 90 percent of higher-income communities even though children from low-income families are twice as likely to walk to school as their peers from higher-income families. This correlates with statistics showing that African American and Latino people are twice as likely as white people to be killed while walking and over 20 percent more likely to be killed while bicycling than white people. Many of these deaths are a result of crumbling or non-existent walk and bike infrastructure in communities of color and low-income communities.

For example, a recent study of the northeast Denver neighborhood of Montbello, a community of 34,000 residents, composed of mostly Latino and African American residents, shows that many of the neighborhood’s sidewalks have obstructions that crowd pedestrians off the sidewalk and into the street and many of the sidewalks are too narrow for two
people to walk side-by-side. The study also found that crosswalks along residential streets were almost non-existent and in many
the crossings lacked necessary markings and a lack of bus routes or stops.

Proposition 110 will give local governments dedicated funds to improve multimodal transportation options. Community groups and leaders will have an opportunity to work closely with their elected officials to advocate for these local investments to be invested in improving poor infrastructure usually found in lower-income areas. With thoseimprovement residents will gain the ability to move around their neighborhoods and cities or towns without a car and link low-income people of all ages and abilities, regardless of whether they are traveling as drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, or public transportation riders.
This ballot initiative is endorsed by hundreds of elected officials, both Republicans
and Democrats, including Governor John Hickenlooper.

What these supporters realize is that 110 is the only proposal that provides an immediate, adequate, and sustainable source of funding to fix the backlog of transportation infrastructure issues at state and local levels as well as to address multimodal projects that will improve the quality of life for all Coloradans. Equally as important this initiative will not commit the state to billions in debt without creating a source of repayment, and it won’t divert money from other programs, such as education, health care, and routine transportation maintenance. Further, it simply asks everyone to pay their fair share, including cyclists who want wider shoulders, drivers of hybrid and electric vehicles, and the nearly 40 million tourists who visit Colorado every year.
Proposition 110 will dedicate 40 percent of the revenue to local projects in municipalities and counties.

Local governments will have full flexibility in utilizing their share of the funding. This will allow communities to address their own unique needs, whether it is street repaving and pothole repair or wider shoulders to accommodate cyclists or improved intersection signals for better pedestrian safety. Proposition 110 recognizes the importance of regional projects, including rides for senior citizens and those with disabilities, bus services, and other important transportation investments that all Coloradans need.
A vote for Proposition 110 is an investment in your community, your safety, and your quality of life.

Editor’s note: Gabriel Guillaume is president and CEO of LiveWell Colorado, a statewide nonprofit organization with a mission to increase access to healthy eating and active living by removing barriers that inequitably and disproportionately affect low-income communities and people of color.


The Khashoggi Affair: A Murder Mystery in Four Acts

By Mel Gurtov

Act 1 (Washington, DC): Upon learning of the disappearance and possible murder of the Saudi journalist and critic, Jamal Khashoggi, Pres. Trump expresses concern and vows to get to the bottom of the case. Turks say they have indisputable evidence Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Trump says he won’t use arms sales as leverage—it would hurt Raytheon et al.—and besides, Khashoggi isn’t a US citizen.

Act 2 (Washington and Riyadh): Trump reports that in a phone conversation with Mohammed bin Salman, the “reformist” crown prince, Salman vigorously denies having anything to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance. Trump says “rogue killers” may have been responsible, implies Salman’s denials are believable. Meantime, many invitees to “Davos in the Desert” drop out, but US officials participate.

Act 3 (Riyadh): Trump dispatches Mike Pompeo to “investigate” the case. He is warmly received by Salman, who touts the alliance and says the two countries will face the future together. “Absolutely,” Pompeo chimes in. They go into private session, where Pompeo apologizes for the “headache” this “incident” must be causing the king. The king smiles, says he appreciates Trump’s “helpful” comments, tells Pompeo he’s coming around to the “rogue killers” idea.

Act 4 (Riyadh and Washington): Pompeo reports that the Saudis are cooperating in an investigation and are “adamant” that the royal court was not involved. Salman speaks to the Saudi people, sounds contrite, vows to pursue justice. (Meantime, nearly all the hit men have been sent out of the country; one has been executed.) Trump professes relief; Jared Kushner urges a refocus on “the Middle East peace plan.” Trump sends Salman warm regards, looks forward to overcoming this tragic affair. Congressional critics find little support for sanctions on Saudi Arabia. The US-Saudi alliance is saved, Salman’s rule is saved, and Trump tells Kushner to “lie low for a while” with his friendship with the king. Next day, Trump lashes out at the Washington Post for convicting the king before any proof has been found.

Editor’s note: Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.


Help For The Homeless Is Needed and Possible

Op-ed by Mike Sawaya

Studies of homelessness in America reveal thatlives of homeless people are almost completely disconnected from the lives of those who have some kind of home. They are treated by the rest of society as if they do not have a real identity – people do not even look them in the eye. People do not interact with them, indicating they have no social worth and treat them as wasted lives.  This is true even for those who try to have some sort of gainful employment.

When my grandfather had a store in Trinidad, Colorado during the Great Depression, he would give food to the “bums” or “hobos” as they were called. Anybody who came to his store and asked for food would be given a can of potted meat and crackers. My grandmother used to say there would be days when he gave away more than he took in.  The transient bums and hobos must have had my grandfather on a list of those who would help them out. The bums would ride the rails, meaning that they would hop in freight trains to travel from place to place. Decades ago, the poor were apparently not treated as utterly different from the rest of society.  When I was younger, I had a friend who was a former hobo and he would tell me stories of what it was like to live in a hobo camp. It was a story of disconnection from employment, but it did not sound as if they were forever relegated to a life separated from the rest of society.   

Something has happened to the way society looks at those who are not in the mainstream.  It seems that most folks are comfortable looking the other way when they see homeless people. For African Americans, this might be something that feels familiar. Stereo typing based on appearance alone is a default that American society has apparently been comfortable with for centuries now. This may be something that humans in general, no matter where they live, are prone to doing. Still, on the surface, it sure seems like Americans do it to an extreme. Americans certainly venerate wealth and status. We judge everyone by their relation to others, not by what we might consider to be their inner worth. 

Sociologists and historians can all give their explanation of why this is true. But, for us ordinary folk, we are stuck with the ugly truth that we don’t take care of the least among us.  We don’t leave much of anything at the margins that the ultra-poor and down-and-out can take for their survival. In so many ways, it shows how we have failed as a Christian society and how we have become comfortable with amoral ethics.

It is hard to see this in anything other than a negative light, just as it is hard to feel good about the way that we incarcerate Black and brown men in prison for felonies when so many of them clearly are not worthless and don’t need to be separated from society for our own safety. It seems we have let the so-called conservatives make the decision that we should treat the lesser among us as those of lesser worth. The ethic of Franklin Roosevelt gave way to the ethic oflatter day “liberals” that welfare was bad and it should be rationed to those who have jobs. Better to have “working poor” than worthless poor, or so they would say.

The only way to find places for those we have marginalized is to make a way to bring them closer to the mainstream. This is true of those who grew up in generational poverty, those who feel marginalized by their appearance, their color, those who are different in their sexual orientation, and those who have run afoul of the law, and so on. The principle is the same. The old Chinese philosophy said that prisons should be like way-stations, not places to warehouse people.  

The answers are not going to come easily. It seems that we have all gotten comfortable ignoring those of lesser means. Giving to charities is always a good thing, but we all know there are not enough resources in our churches and major charities to take care of the many folks who have become marginalized. We will all need to search our souls for our true principles that include others. We should insist that our political leaders address these issues in a meaningful way. Find places for the poor to live. Let all those men and boys out of prison who are not a threat to others. Treat the least among us as worthy human beings.

I know it sounds too good to be true, but the truth is that this is the only way that things will get better for those outside the mainstream.