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Today's Opinions

  • Objections to transparency in healthcare costs don’t hold water

    Last week, we picked up our sweet old dog and paid a vet bill with the complexity of a hospital bill, minus the shock. That’s because the clinic first gave us an estimate.
    Let’s say you need a hip replacement. Why can’t you get an estimate? Why aren’t hospital costs comparable?
    Think New Mexico answers the question with its proposal for transparency in healthcare costs. The pros far outweigh the cons.
    New Mexico hospitals charge a surprisingly wide range of prices for the same procedures, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies. Higher priced care may reflect a higher readmission, error or infection rate rather than better care.
    Think New Mexico found that patients at the same hospital receiving the same treatment from the same doctor are charged different prices, depending on who is paying the bills. (The six most expensive hospitals are owned by Community Health Systems, which has reportedly hired lobbyists to fight the bill.)
    When insurers and hospitals negotiate reimbursement rates, a gag clause forbids disclosure. The uninsured, with no bargaining power, have the highest rates. Secrecy and varied pricing add to complexity, which increases administrative waste in the system.

  • I will that I won’t

    René Descartes was a truly amazing person. He invented analytic geometry, giving us the standard notation we use today for avariables, and created the coordinate plane system, allowing us to graphically represent algebraic equations.
    He is known for having creating the “rule of signs,” a method for determining the number of positive and negative roots of an equation. He also invented exponential notation and figured out the principal of refraction, creating what today is known as Snell’s Law.
    In summary, he gave math teachers a plethora of ways to torture students.
    Perhaps even more amazing is that mathematics was only a hobby of Descartes. His primary focus in life was philosophy, employing his “method of doubt” in a passionate search for truth. With his establishment of using logic and reason to define the natural sciences, he is known as “the father of philosophy.”
    And as such, the one thing he is best known for is his famous philosophical declaration, “Je pense, donc je suis,” a statement of proof of being.
    You probably know it as, “Cogito, ergo sum,” or “I think, therefore I am.”
    Whether or not one exists, philosophers and psychologists are still debating who exactly is the “we” who thinks?

  • Letters to the editor 1-22-15

    Donate for Valentines for Vets

    The Ladies Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 8874 in Los Alamos is a nonprofit organization of volunteers who donate their time and talents for the benefit of our veterans at home and abroad.  
    We send care packages to our military overseas, as well as phone cards (via Operation Uplink) to our deployed military personnel.  
    On the home front, we financially support the VFW National Home for Children, Unmet Needs and Cancer Aid and Research programs, we continually work to obtain legislation that will benefit our veterans and their families, we sponsor the Young American Creative Patriotic Art, Outstanding Young Volunteer and Americanism youth programs in our schools, we assist local families of disabled and needy veterans, and we visit the VA Hospital in Albuquerque every February for the Valentines for Vets event.
    The Valentines for Vets event consists of visiting our veterans and distributing amenities along with Valentine’s Day cards made locally and collected by our Girl Scouts.  
    This year’s event will be at 1 p.m. Feb. 8. Since the Albuquerque Veterans Hospital services the entire northern area of our state, we are soliciting donations from everyone in our connected communities.  

  • Home remodel for the new year

    Our 2014 huge positives were the first grandchild, a new kitchen and hanging out by the ocean in Monterrey, California. The negatives were many, many trips to doctors.
    The kitchen came courtesy of an inheritance from my mother. In developing the project, we considered many things. Our research led us to million dollar homes with sloppy work. Most of our ideas worked; some didn’t, demanding compromise and rethinking. Our experience may lend some insight as you contemplate such a project.
    While we managed without a $10,000 stove, the project was extravagant. Fortunately we could not enlarge the kitchen because our house encircles it.
    We had the cash. Obvious advice, item one, be able to pay. Call me an outlier in our consumption ethos, but I’ve never been a borrower. Only for houses, but not for cars (once, only) and definitely not now with a fixed income.
    We didn’t worry about recapturing remodeling cost on sale of the house. We plan to be in the house long enough to render such an analysis moot. We did the project for us, not for the next guy.

  • Buyer beware: The value of near-death accounts

    Religious deception and hucksterism is certainly not a new phenomenon.
    From Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry to televangelist Jim Bakker to some proponents of the Prosperity Gospel, fictional and real life examples abound.
    So the revelation that Kevin Malarkey fabricated his six-year old son’s account of his near-death experience (NDE) in “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven” is not shocking.
    In response to a letter by the now 16-year-old Alex, its publisher, Tyndale House, has announced it will no longer market the book, which has reportedly sold more than one million copies.
    Claims have long circulated that Malarkey embellished, exaggerated, or even invented the experiences and visions he attributes to Alex. For several years, Beth Malarkey, Kevin’s ex-wife, has questioned the account.
    “Buyer beware,” she wrote. “There is only one absolutely infallible and true book: God’s Word. It does not need fancied up or packaged for sale.”

  • Home remodel for the new year

    Our 2014 huge positives were the first grandchild, a new kitchen and hanging out by the ocean in Monterrey, California. The negatives were many, many trips to doctors.
    The kitchen came courtesy of an inheritance from my mother. In developing the project, we considered many things. Our research led us to million dollar homes with sloppy work. Most of our ideas worked; some didn’t, demanding compromise and rethinking. Our experience may lend some insight as you contemplate such a project.
    While we managed without a $10,000 stove, the project was extravagant. Fortunately we could not enlarge the kitchen because our house encircles it.
    We had the cash. Obvious advice, item one, be able to pay. Call me an outlier in our consumption ethos, but I’ve never been a borrower. Only for houses, but not for cars (once, only) and definitely not now with a fixed income.
    We didn’t worry about recapturing remodeling cost on sale of the house. We plan to be in the house long enough to render such an analysis moot. We did the project for us, not for the next guy.

  • Challenges and opportunities for the 2015 U.S. Economy

    With the stock market at an all-time high, a bonanza of cheap gasoline, and unemployment at 5.8 percent, there is increased optimism about the U.S. economy. Yet challenges abound, both from the inside and abroad.
    Participation in the labor force remains at the lowest levels since the late 1970s, with over 6 million less people in the workforce since President Barack Obama assumed office. The time of reckoning for the Fed is arriving.
    The Fed will likely begin introducing higher rates early this year. If it waits until 2016 it might risk causing a negative short-term impact just before the presidential election.
    With over $7 trillion of new borrowing no other president in U.S. history has increased the debt as much as Obama. Eventually these policies need to be reversed, causing painful readjustments.

  • Considering life without owning a car

    Most baby boomers couldn’t envision their early adult years without a car. However, times are changing and younger commuters are leading the way.
    According to an October study by U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and the Frontier Group, millennials — those born between 1983 and 2000 — are driving significantly less than older Americans. Many post-college drivers swimming in college debt are opting for urban living where walking, biking and mass transit tend to be easier options. Increasingly, those with a temporary need for four-wheel transportation can do so by smartphone.
    Today, there are many options to conventional car ownership, but it’s important to match solutions and their specific costs to your needs. Here’s a road map for exploring what’s right for you.
    Start with the cost of driving. If you already drive and budget carefully, you will have an idea of what driving costs you can incur each year in financing, fuel, fees, maintenance and insurance.