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Health Reform and EMS

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Kustra on health reform

In an unscripted section of his State of the University address last week, Boise State President Bob Kustra talked about the recent death of his son and the need for a public coverage option.

"Over the course of the last 15 months that we fought this battle, we saw close up what's at stake in the current health-care reform debate," Kustra said. "We are living proof of how for-profit insurance companies and HMOs target people who are sick and who are ill and raise their premiums, and raise their premiums until they can effectively kick them off of the rolls."

Kustra's son Steve died of cancer two months ago. After his first bout with cancer, as his rates rose, Steve dropped his health coverage without informing his parents, Kustra recalled. When the symptoms returned, he had no doctor to visit.

"When we hear the 'public option,' and we hear the president thinking about dropping it from the plan, it worries me greatly that we would leave health care to the profit motive in America," Kustra said.

Kustra went on to talk about how the state of Idaho has been cutting health benefits and not living up to its bargain to raise salaries. Part-time university employees will see a 47 percent jump in health insurance-premiums that they must pay themselves, Kustra said.

"It doesn't make any sense that this Faustian bargain that went awry should land in the laps of our most vulnerable citizens," he said. "I know that I'm supposed to be skilled at politics ... but there's no way that anyone should remain silent in the face of this injustice."

Kustra continued, still shooting from the hip, that the same people who are cutting state worker health benefits dress in blue and orange, attend seven Bronco games a year and slap him on the back asking if Boise State will beat Oregon.

"I wish just once somebody would say, 'How's the lab technician going to handle the 40 percent increase? ... Will he drop his coverage, will he simply fail to pay?" Kustra said.

Red Team vs. Blue Team

A crowd of some 60 concerned citizens and blog readers gathered at the Boise Public Library on Aug. 24 to discuss the future of EMS services in Ada County. The confab was hosted by Boise Guardian blogger David Frazier, a vocal critic of Boise Fire Department's efforts to start a new ambulance service.

For the first time, the debate left the Internet and while an assortment of white uniformed Ada County Paramedics were present to answer questions, Boise Fire Department refused to attend, leaving a lopsided panel.

"I think the fact that Boise Fire Department isn't here speaks volumes. They think they can do EMS better, faster and cheaper? What's their plan? Let's hear it," said one irate attendee. Multiple speakers expressed frustration that BFD was not present to answer questions directly.

"The host for this event has already taken a stand on the issue and therefore cannot serve as an impartial moderator in this debate," explained Greg Womack, president of firefighters Local No. 149, in a press release. "Boise Fire is committed to ensuring the highest quality emergency medical services to all Boise residents and looks forward to working with all involved parties to achieve that goal."

war in Iraq

U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, 4,337 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,466 in combat and 871 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 31,469. In the last week, two U.S. soldiers died.

Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 108 soldiers have died.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense

IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 92,898 and 101,388.


COST OF IRAQ WAR: $676,746,974,294