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Readers Write: (Aug. 8): Keystone, psychiatric patient's release, hip replacements, airport gambling, property taxes

  • August 7, 2013 - 6:34 PM

No, this is nothing like a ‘Rosa Parks’ moment

In an Aug. 5 commentary, James Lenfestey contends that the Keystone XL permit presents President Obama with “a Rosa Parks moment.” The comparison is offensive and ill-informed.

Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat was a courageous defense of human dignity. In showing that she’d rather be arrested than abide by a hateful, immoral system, Parks inspired millions to reject institutional racism. Mr. Lenfestey trades on Parks’ heroism to advance a disingenuous argument about energy policy. This is crass and minimizes Parks’ extraordinary action.

Further, if the president were to take Lenfestey’s advice and reject Keystone XL, he’d be squandering a chance to create more than 42,000 jobs annually. Lenfestey never mentions this fact.

Ignoring reasonable arguments in favor of dogma and rhetoric is bad enough. Using a fearless truth-teller like Rosa Parks to do it is repugnant.

HARRY C. ALFORD, Washington, D.C.

 

The writer is president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

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PSYCHIATRIC PATIENT

Release was deliberate, but it was mishandled

A psychiatric patient discharged from the Minnesota Security Hospital last month had been committed for mental illness, not sex offenses, as the Star Tribune implied (“State dumps sex offender on street,” Aug. 6). Preparations were already underway to discharge this patient, because our clinical staff believed he was ready to return to the community. It is never appropriate to discharge someone to a homeless shelter, and the mistakes that led to this cannot and will not be tolerated. However, it is important to remember that people with mental illness do recover and become ready to live in the community.

LUCINDA JESSON; commissioner, Minnesota Department of Human Services

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HIP REPLACEMENT

There are benefits to surgery close to home

We at the Minnesota Orthopaedic Society (MOS) read with interest the recent article on total hip replacement, a very important topic (“A better deal for implants abroad,” Aug. 4). Total hip replacement is one of the most cost-effective health care interventions in all countries and health care systems. However, the presentation of data is different from the usual costs associated with this procedure in the United States and in Minnesota.

Most hip replacements done in the United States are covered by Medicare. The average Medicare payment to a surgeon is $1,400, which includes surgery, a hospital stay and follow-up care for 90 days after surgery. In Minnesota, the average payment to a hospital for this procedure (including implant costs, operating-room time and a hospital stay) was $23,378.02 in 2011.

Certainly there are pricing differences within the United States and abroad; however, excellent care is provided by highly trained orthopedic surgeons in our state, at a low cost to patients and insurers. There is also value in having one’s surgeon available to provide care after surgery, particularly if there are problems.

The people of Minnesota have access to excellent orthopedic surgeons who do indicated procedures at a modest price compared with the rest of the nation. The MOS wishes to clarify the value, costs and quality of care that we provide in light of the information in the recent article.

We look forward to collaborating with others to remove unnecessary cost from health care and improve the value to our state and our nation.

Dr. Amy L. McIntosh, Dr. Julie E. Adams and Dr. David W. Polly

 

The writers, orthopedic surgeons, have leadership roles in the Minnesota Orthopaedic Society.

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AIRPORT GAMBLING

Is it proper to rope the staff into this?

Here are questions for Jana Vaughn, executive director of the MSP Airport Foundation, regarding the attempt to turn airport workers into shills for the gambling industry (“Airport e-gambling showing poor payoff,” Aug. 6):

1) Quoting the story, “staff at the airport bars and restaurants will be trained on how to encourage customers to give the games a try.” How will those trainers be paid? The $1,900 that the Airport Foundation has earned so far might cover — what? — one expert for one week?

2) Will there be a bonus or prizes (free trip to Vegas!) for staff members who persuade the most customers?

3) What about support staff who may not wish to participate, out of moral conviction, or personal distaste, or just plain not wanting to feel hypocritical? Will they be putting their jobs at risk?

LAUREN SOTH, Northfield, Minn.

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The system is a mess, for the wrong reasons

The Aug. 6 editorial “Minnesotans need lower property taxes” barely scratched the surface on the problems with the property tax system. If anything ever was a Rube Goldberg machine, it is this system. It was created piecemeal over the last 155 years through political horse trading, with little or no problem-solving or systems analysis methodology. It is a mess, and it has not gotten better with change, just different. The latest changes are unlikely to reduce property taxes for any middle-class family, especially in the metro area.

The problems with the system are many, but I would start with two issues. The first is credibility. Property owners are completely baffled by the system, and worse, are left with no way to know what their tax liabilities are going to be from year to year. Some are at risk every year of losing their homes if taxes jump beyond what they can afford.

Second, the system is highly inefficient, costing Minnesota taxpayers at least $1.5 billion a year and likely more when considering staffing, facilities and equipment for the various government units and tax districts. And it is considered an industry unto itself, with large, well-organized lobbying, just as with other special interests. Where is the political will to really fix property taxes using modern management methodology and not just politics?

DAVID SADLER, Minneapolis

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