Throughout this year’s campaign season, candidates for all elected offices, from governor to Legislature to town council, deemed the opioid epidemic a top priority. And now that our newly elected officials will soon take their posts, policy solutions to fight opioid addiction and misuse will almost certainly be on the agenda. But Minnesota’s lawmakers must be mindful that most families cannot afford to see their health care costs increase as a result.
Any proposal that includes added taxes on the distribution of opioids, such as the penny-per-pill proposal considered last year, is frankly dangerous. Minnesota businesses and residents already suffer from sky-high health care and prescription medication costs, and a tax on the health care system will only exacerbate these serious concerns.
It’s also important to note that taxing the legitimate health care marketplace does little to combat illegal diversion and abuse, which we know to be true drivers of the epidemic.
While I applaud our legislators for recognizing the seriousness of the opioid epidemic, slapping a tax on prescription medicines is not the answer. We should not enact new taxes when excess funding exists.
I remain hopeful that the Legislature will realize the flaws of this unnecessary cost increase.
Lloyd Cheney, Hastings
The writer is the Republican Party chairman in the Second Congressional District.
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Every day I have to manage the painful symptoms of Grade 3 spondylolisthesis and sciatic nerve impingement, ranging from unexpected, debilitating pain to emotional and physical exhaustion. Losing access to medication and pain treatment options seems unimaginable. Unfortunately, the Legislature threatened to restrict my care, and that of my fellow chronic pain patients, when it considered placing taxes and other fees on the distribution of all prescription opioids last session.
Over 20 percent of adults in America suffer from chronic pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Without treatment, these conditions often take a significant toll on us, our families and our productivity. We are far from the addicts and criminals who sell illegal opioids — the drugs such as heroin and fentanyl that are accelerating the epidemic’s death toll. But legislators ignored these realities when they introduced last session’s proposals that would have fined wholesale pharmaceutical distributors for delivering prescription opioids to Minnesota’s licensed health care providers.
Along with an array of other pain-management therapies, prescription opioids are sometimes the only treatments available for managing severe, long-lasting pain. Disrupting the delivery of these prescription medications could directly impact the ability of our state’s health care providers to effectively care for and treat pain.
Minnesotans are united in their eagerness to end opioid addiction and abuse. It has truly become a crisis throughout the country. But we have to look for solutions that don’t endanger the health of the chronic-pain community — a population that is much bigger than you might think.
Diane Bolin Kelley, Woodbury
A journey of trial and error, with more change on the horizon
The cordoned-off bike lanes must have been a surprise to motorists who never bike (“The road less traveled,” Opinion Exchange, Dec. 9, and responses to that article). We are witnessing and participating in a journey of trial and error as bike travel has improved and evolved in the Twin Cities. As a cyclist, I love those lanes — but I also appreciate the story of how they came to be. Hundreds of Minneapolis citizens have volunteered thousands of hours over the course of decades to bring about better conditions for cyclists.
Working with Department of Transportation engineers, these volunteers helped develop an effective network of bike lanes and trails that benefit both pedestrians and cyclists. Bikes aren’t the end-all solution, but they offer more options in our city transportation system.
There is other change on the horizon. Those lanes will be used in ways that have not yet been considered. We were surprised when a noncycling, pickup-driving friend from the Dakotas shared a video of battery-operated devices already on the streets of China. Among them were wheeled vehicles that pack up like a suitcase and a conveyance that allows a wheelchair to be operated like a scooter.
We already see battery-operated skateboards, scooters and stand-up wheels on our streets and sidewalks in Minneapolis. The beauty with bicycles and other personal devices is having the freedom to leave when you want to and finding parking at your destination that takes little or no space. Often, we do not need a car.
We know freeways, where bicycles are prohibited, have divided our neighborhoods and fouled the air. Furthermore, cars take space — lots of it — for parking when they are not being used. Parking is an ongoing problem we will continue to have — even with electric, self-driving vehicles. We know this.
We won’t dwell further on the many downsides of car transportation. Having designated space for non-automobile travelers in the transportation grid is essential to the future development of our cities.
LuAnn and Carl Johnson, Minneapolis
U PRESIDENT SELECTION
The positive lessons committee member learned can transfer
Loved the lessons Ross Levin learned as he served on University of Minnesota presidential selection committee (“Funny thing about the search panel: It worked,” Dec. 21). Kudos to him and leaders of the process. So applicable in many forums, big and small, family and community, public and private sectors:
• Collective wisdom is greater than individual wisdom.
• Really listening is not waiting to make your point.
• Look at things as more good than bad rather than right or wrong.
• Collaboration is better than compromise.
• Values over principles.
These are lessons to be emulated.
Donna Leviton, New Hope
‘THE UNCHURCHING OF AMERICA’
The missed point: It’s a logical progression in an age of science
The Star Tribune’s series on the decline of church membership in the U.S. (“Test of faith: The Unchurching of America,” concluding with “Churches sow seeds for future revival,” Dec. 16) has ignored the elephant in the room: There is no evidence of a god or an after-life.
Thousands of years ago, humans viewed themselves as the center of the universe with hundreds of gods impacting their lives. We now know that in the observable universe there are 100 billion galaxies like our Milky Way galaxy, each containing 100 billion stars like our sun. Science has proved that life on Earth is a result of evolution creating all life forms of life on our planet over hundreds of millions of years. Religion is being left behind — and with it the ignorant subjugation of women, gays, people of color, people born with handicaps — not to mention the evils perpetrated on children. Meaningful communities helping others can be found without churches positing a belief in superstitious nonsense.
Mary Ellen Lundberg, Minneapolis