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by JUDY HODGSON
I was among those packing the
house at the Van Duzer Theatre last Friday for the inauguration
of Humboldt State University President Rollin Richmond. There
was a distinct advantage to having this event one year after
Richmond assumed his post. Those who spoke of the changes he
is making on campus and throughout the community did so with
first-hand knowledge --genuine enthusiasm.
Richmond caused a little grumbling
on the hill this year when he pushed forward with a physical
reorganization of some offices. And there were a few notable
exits from the administration as well as hirings as he settled
in. (Still to come, the hiring of a vice president/provost.)
But at this early stage, the students and particularly the faculty,
who are sometimes known for being a cantankerous bunch when dealing
with administrators, are giving him a thumbs-up.
In terms of community relations,
Richmond has demonstrated a hands-on approach to problem-solving.
He involved himself in the stand-off with the city of Arcata
over the construction of the Behavioral and Social Sciences Building
and with the city of Eureka over the boarded-up State Theater/Daly
Building. Both projects are moving forward.
At the reception later, I ran
into state Sen. Wesley Chesbro. After apologizing for injecting
business into a social event, I launched into a short rant about
double-digit increases in health insurance premiums and said
no wonder some small businesses are canceling their policies
Mainly, I wanted to make sure
Wes had read the special report, "Medical emergency,"
in the San Francisco Chronicle April 27 (a terrific journalistic
effort ). [Links are below.] The
report was actually eight different articles, one of them by
Jamie Court, "A revolution looking for a leader and a way."
It summarized health care reform proposals and handicapped all
the players -- patients, doctors, nurses, hospitals, employers,
insurers, HMOs and drug companies -- each and every one of them
with their own agenda. (One interesting note is that nurses,
"having witnessed abuses at the bedside ... are even more
ready than doctors for radical change.")
Are you ready for a revolution?
I am, and not just because of my own company's high insurance
At first, I was intrigued by
Rep. Dick Gephardt's recent proposal to shift health care premiums
from a business "expense" to a much-more-desirable
tax credit. (He is proposing to pay for this shift by forgoing
the tax cut Congress is working on, a brilliant idea that will
go nowhere under this administration.)
What's wrong with Gephardt's
thinking? For one, why is universal health care, a social goal
that the world's richest country can well afford, the sole responsibility
of business owners? More importantly, as a second Chronicle
article pointed out, Gephardt's plan would do nothing for the
uninsured who are clogging emergency rooms because they have
nowhere else to go. (The article by Julie Winokur, "Live
sicker, die younger," tells of a professional couple who
very recently earned $100,000 a year, descending into health
care hell because of a layoff, an illness and no insurance.)
If you are sitting there comfortably
saying, I have insurance for my family, what does any of this
have to do with me? I will tell you.
You are paying for this dysfunctional
health care delivery system now in a very expensive, inefficient
fashion: with jacked-up hospital bills paid by your insurance
company and ever-higher premiums that are strangling businesses
-- the ones which haven't canceled their policies.
I have little hope for a solution
at the federal level, with a Congress still gun-shy from the
1993 Clinton health-care reform failure. A state will have to
show the feds there is a system that can work. Wes said Senate
President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco, is co-authoring
a union-backed "pay or play" proposal which would tax
those employers without insurance to fund publicly subsidized
universal coverage, but would it cover nonunionized workers?
How about those newly unemployed or in transition? Would it have
any relief for small companies currently unable to join group
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