Friday, May 05, 2006

Op Ed

Opinion: Sometimes Officials Make It Too Easy to Take a Few Potshots
Staff Editorial
Longview News-Journal
Taking a few potshots:
* The next time Texas decides to privatize a social service program let's hope that lawmakers also decided to privatize the oversight of the transition.
Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins has once again delayed privatization of his agencies' eligibility and enrollment systems and is scrambling to hold on to up to 1,000 state employees who were scheduled to lose their jobs. In the mean time, people applying for benefits, including Medicaid, food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy families, continue to have problems with the new, privately operated call centers.
Not only are new clients having problems getting enrolled for vital services, but people already in the system have been mistakenly losing benefits, including the coverage provided by the state's long-troubled Children's Health Insurance Program.
* It must be election year. Members of Congress are dragging out their trusty wedge issues just in time for some heated summer sound bites to set the stage for the November election. Republicans are already working on the perennial effort to send an amendment prohibiting desecration of the American flag to the states. Observers say the measure — which always passes in the House — doesn't stand any better chance in the Senate than it has in the past. If it can stir up a few members of the increasingly disillusioned base, however, there is obvious political capital to be gained. Republicans also are expected to raise the possibility of amendments to ban same-sex marriage and abortion — again with little to gain other than agitated voters.
The Democrats, meanwhile, have their own wedge issue. They are expected to push anew for expanded federal funding of embryonic stem cell research — one of the few measures for which President Bush has vowed a certain veto. The House has already adopted such a measure, but Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has dragged his feet, even though he said last year that he supported expanded research.
* Here's a possible cure for Medicare. According to a study released Thursday, the percentage of eligible employees enrolled in private sector health plans slid from 85.3 percent in 1998 to 80.3 percent in 2003. One possible explanation might be the 41 percent increase in individual insurance premiums during that five-year span. As more people find themselves outside the health care system, will our steadily increasing average life-spans take a U-turn?
* Feeling secure in the homeland? We're not so sure. The U.S. House voted 421-2 on Thursday to improve security at American seaports. The Bush administration says, however, that the country lacks the funding and the technology to do much of what the House bill calls for, including the installation of nuclear material detectors at 22 major ports by next year. Homeland Security currently opens about 6 percent of the 11 million cargo containers that enter our nation each year, according to an Associated Press report. A spokesperson said the department wants to screen 65 percent of cargo for radiological materials by October. Does that mean a terrorist would have a 1-in-3 chance of sneaking such materials through our ports?
* Finally, if the Texas Legislature goes ahead with the idea of setting a later start date for public schools, we'd really like to hear the full argument. If the idea can help students, tell us. If it is important to give families more time together, tell us. As one Senate Democrat said Thursday, it's a boon to businesses, we want to know what cost there might be to education.

Blab-away for as little as 1¢/min. Make PC-to-Phone Calls using Yahoo! Messenger with Voice.

No comments: