Licensure is the better assurance of quality

I applaud the libertarian position of Lee McGrath that regulations can be irrational and excessive (“Licenses for nurses: There’s a better way,” Jan. 8). McGrath’s organization, the Institute for Justice, has been part of the deregulation of hair braiding, sign hanging and interstate trash hauling. But the care of patients by physicians and nurses is more serious. The Star Tribune’s 2013 series about errant nurses demonstrated the need for more-effective regulation, not deregulation.

Licensure guarantees that qualified practitioners are allowed to perform the job, while certification permits them to use the job title. Licensed practitioners who commit malpractice can lose their license. Certified practitioners who commit malpractice can change their title, continue to see patients — and perhaps receive a bad review on Angie’s List. As described, certification would be a weaker regulation driven by the craziness of competition. Angie’s List, Yelp, Facebook and Twitter can help consumers make choices, but comments within social media are often inaccurate and unfair. Frivolous claims are abundant on these sites. Competence should not be a popularity contest.

Currently, consumers have recourse by submitting complaints to regulatory boards. The regulatory process may have problems, but the solution is to strengthen it.



How the obligations grew to current levels

There has been much discussion lately about the high cost of pensions and about the difficulty that local, state and federal governments are having, and will have, to meet their promises to retirees.

I was a teacher for more than 30 years and spent many years on negotiating committees dickering over contracts with the state. Whether pensions are high or low, those who take either side should be aware of the following:

Every year there were negotiations, each side would present its “demands.” Almost always, conflict arose over salaries. And every year (this is the most important part) it was tacitly or sometimes openly acknowledged that although the state recognized the relative fairness of our salary demands, it didn’t want to meet them, or couldn’t, and therefore we would compromise: In exchange for lower wages, teachers would accept the unwritten promise that some of the difference would be made up in increased pension funds.

Now it seems as though teachers are going to take a hit on both ends.

I’m not saying this was fair, or even that it was a good negotiating tool. I am saying that the state should own up to what it did, and that people who believe they have an ax to grind in this discussion should know all the facts.



We’re getting talk instead of action

I did not expect goals of “perfect” or promises of “strategies for improvement” — words from the MNsure interim executive director and a MNsure spokeswoman in recent news stories. What I did expect is a site capable of performing basic navigational functions. In the absence of that, I expected the MNsure management team to own up to its responsibility, make realistic assessments of the site’s problems and report action steps.

When Amazon’s cloud routinely handles 500,000 transactions every second, it boggles the mind that the MNsure site can eke out only 67,805 enrollees (as of Dec. 31) in three months. After three years and a $155 million investment, it’s shocking that the MNsure staff, board of directors, consultants and spokespeople continue to speak in platitudes and sound so flummoxed.

SANDRA NELSON, Minneapolis


Seems to get singular blame for bird deaths

Whenever news is reported of the death of an eagle, it ignites in some a reflexive response critical of wind energy (Letter of the Day, Jan. 6). The 500,000 annual bird deaths cited sound alarming, but the number pales in comparison with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that as many as 175 million birds may be killed annually by power lines. And there are far more serious causes of eagle and raptor mortality than wind turbines — for instance, lead shot, power lines, poachers and pesticides. Are these same critics proportionally more opposed to hunting and power lines?



A simple thing, rope, can be a lifesaver

An article about the Cedar-Riverside fire mentioned that several of the victims jumped from the second- and third-floor windows. When I was a young man, I worked a summer in Fargo, N.D. The first two or three days I was there, I stayed, as I recall, on the third floor at the YMCA. What I vividly remember is a coil of rope tied to the radiator near the window. I would like to recommend that apartment owners and tenants of buildings of this age and height make sure this escape method is available.

TEDD JOHNSON, Minneapolis