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Today's Opinions

  • Letters to the Editor 8-8-18

    Chronic pain sufferers
    victims of federal opioid crackdown

    Dear Editor,

    Columnist Sherry Robinson’s eloquent description (Aug. 1) of chronic-pain sufferers’ plight during the opioid crackdown reflects understanding otherwise lacking in the discussion, or more accurately, the kneejerk reaction to the opioid problem.

    Recent bureaucratic “solutions” cause yet more work and another ordeal – of many in a failed medical system – for those who are sick and weak.

    Chronic pain sufferers such as myself, as Robinson defines, will likely need pain management permanently, not as a matter of addiction but for pain that will always be there.

    The Feds have decided we must go directly to the prescribing practitioner’s office and hand-carry prescriptions to pharmacies, an office visit that would otherwise likely be unneeded, and one that might force many to hire someone to help with something that should be done electronically. Meanwhile, unhindered by doctor visits, the addicts happily get their drugs smuggled from Mexico.

  • Econ. development bonds let governments help businesses

    FINANCE NEW MEXICO

    Toby Rittner wants to help communities leverage their limited financial resources to solve the needs of business, industry, developers and investors.

    Rittner is CEO of the Council of Development Finance Agencies, a nonprofit organization that provides research, training and technical assistance to government entities that want to explore how bonds and other development financing tools can support and encourage public and private investment in infrastructure, redevelopment and other projects that benefit a community’s economy.

    Most people are familiar with general obligation (GO) bonds, which are used to finance public projects such as building or repairing roads, sewers, schools and water treatment facilities and to purchase essential equipment to meet public needs. When tax-exempt GO bonds are offered to investors, the revenue provides capital needed to pay for a project, and the governmental entity repays the debt, with interest, to investors.

    In a similar vein, private activity bonds (PABs) allow governments to act as conduits for private businesses that need to raise money to support their growth so they can bring jobs and prosperity to a community.  Governments issue PABs to accelerate a business’s growth and lower its cost of raising capital.

  • The complications of paying the Legislature

    The notion that New Mexico should pay legislators a salary has been discussed many times. In 2016, a constitutional amendment was proposed to establish a salary, but wasn’t passed.

    Some observers think we’d get a better quality legislature. Maybe. But it’s not so simple.

    A salary would make it easier for intelligent, principled, civic minded individuals representing a broader range of backgrounds to seek elective office. It also could make legislative service attractive to some people who would want the job primarily for the money. Alas, New Mexico does have history of that. (Recall a past state auditor or two, for example.)

    New Mexico is the last state to have no salary for legislators. Our legislators receive per diem expenses tagged to the IRS rate for Santa Fe, currently $183 a day for the legislative session and interim committee meetings. Most legislators actually do have to stay in hotels and pay for lodging and expenses. (I’ll mention exceptions another time.)

    The 2016 amendment would have set legislators’ salaries to the state’s median household income, currently around $45,000. For 112 legislators, that totals a little more than $5 million a year. But the cost of a salary is never just the salary.

  • Politics is an erratic world to negotiate

    Negotiate” stirs up good business and bad political finagling. The word is a double-edged sword that is honed for cutting out debate. The word itself is its own counterpoint. 

    In politics, “negotiate” connotes the cowardice in gathering ideas by talking with others. Worse still is talking about making a deal, with all of its taking in and giving away. A rude synonym is “compromise of principles.” 

    With equal relevance, “negotiate” entails the bravery of making your own way across treacherous stretches to reach a worthy goal. An example is negotiating Death Valley in a covered wagon. A rude synonym is “defeat of barriers.” 

    “Negotiate” reflects the oddities of politics in more ways than one. First: little success comes without some give and take along the way. Second: in a democracy, it takes a brave and wise soul to negotiate (in both meanings) a path to a worthy goal on the nation’s agenda. 

  • Small businesses need to plan for disasters before they happen

    FINANCE NEW MEXICO

    Small businesses are attuned to the risks they face when material costs and interest rates start to rise and competitors make inroads into their market share, but they’re not always conscious of less predictable but increasingly common risks, such as natural disasters. And they don’t always know about the resources available when their city or county is formally declared a disaster area and they become eligible for government assistance.

    In April, for example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared 12 New Mexico counties primary natural disaster areas due to drought-related crop losses. The declaration enabled qualified farm businesses to access USDA emergency loans. 

    Recent storm-induced flooding and power outages in Santa Fe led to a disaster declaration by the city, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent Preliminary Damage Assessment teams to assess the damage. The information will be used to determine if a Major Disaster Declaration will be issued, opening the door to federal resources and funding assistance for families and businesses.

  • Remember chronic pain patients when ramping up anti-opioid campaigns

    We can all agree that we have an opioid problem in the state and the nation, but can we be sensible about solutions?

    Recently Dr. Richard Larson, executive vice chancellor of the UNM Health Sciences Center, recommended government-regulated restrictions on prescribing. In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, he argued that “without strict government regulation, it won’t be solved.” His prescription? A three-day limit on outpatient prescriptions for acute pain and no opioids for adolescents.

    Do we really want a distant bureaucrat overruling the judgment of our doctors?

    The following week, the New Mexico Medical Board revoked the license of Dr. Walter Seidel Jr., forcing him to close his family practice in Ruidoso. The board took issue with the way he prescribed controlled substances and said he refused to cooperate with the board’s investigation. They declared him a danger to the public.

    Maybe the board had good reason to end Seidel’s practice – I don’t know the details of the investigation – but his comment to the Albuquerque Journal was one I’ve heard before: “Look at all the patients in New Mexico who have chronic pain and are not being treated appropriately by their doctors because those physicians are afraid of the medical board.”

  • When it comes to drinking, what is moderation?

    By Thomas Biuso, M.D.
    Senior Medical Director, United Healthcare of New Mexico

    A glass of wine with dinner, a few beers with work friends – drinking is not going to hurt you unless you overdo it. Right?

    It’s hard to say. New research shows even moderate alcohol use may have serious health outcomes.

    One recent study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, analyzed the correlation moderate drinking has with risk of death and also the potential for developing cancer. Researchers found the risk of death increased for those who consumed one to five drinks per week. The study also found consuming five to seven drinks per week increased risk of cancer by 10 percent.

    This study highlights the potential health risks associated with drinking, even when alcohol consumption falls within the guidelines set by the U.S. government. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion considers safe consumption to be up to one drink per day for women and up to two per day for men.

  • When it comes to drinking, what is moderation?

    By Thomas Biuso, M.D.
    Senior Medical Director, United Healthcare of New Mexico

    A glass of wine with dinner, a few beers with work friends – drinking is not going to hurt you unless you overdo it. Right?

    It’s hard to say. New research shows even moderate alcohol use may have serious health outcomes.

    One recent study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, analyzed the correlation moderate drinking has with risk of death and also the potential for developing cancer. Researchers found the risk of death increased for those who consumed one to five drinks per week. The study also found consuming five to seven drinks per week increased risk of cancer by 10 percent.

    This study highlights the potential health risks associated with drinking, even when alcohol consumption falls within the guidelines set by the U.S. government. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion considers safe consumption to be up to one drink per day for women and up to two per day for men.