Guns, potholes, health care and more about studies

Wayne Horne | 1/15/2014, 9:46 p.m.
Writing a column every week gives me a chance to review many issues, reports, media articles and the like. Not ...
Wayne Horne

Writing a column every week gives me a chance to review many issues, reports, media articles and the like. Not everything that happens generates comment and most of what happens is pretty routine and boring unless you happen to be involved. That’s true at the national, state, county and local municipal levels.

Dominating the news cycle nationally last week was the New Jersey governor saga. Several days of discussion by the news media were difficult to avoid.

Here in Illinois, concealed carry was the hot button issue as the number of applications exceeded expectations. The headline of one Chicago paper that really caught my attention was: “Permit to carry gun not license to shoot.” I was thankful for the information, but unaware of the confusion. The question asked: When is it appropriate to pull the trigger? Really? When indeed?

Locally, Joliet is patching potholes. Important, but not very exciting.

The national story that impacts almost everyone in the country is the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” as many choose to call it. Government figures released Monday showed enrollment numbers since October and not surprising was 33 percent of all the enrollees were between the ages of 55 and 65. Experience proves that health insurance is necessary for that age group. If you don’t need it today, you may need it tomorrow and one hospitalization can bankrupt a person without insurance. Health insurance gets you care you might not otherwise receive or wait a long time to receive.

The numbers also reveal younger people are not signing up as quickly as anticipated and those younger than 34 accounted for less than 24 percent of the enrollees. All of the individuals in all age groups who have enrolled so far do not have group insurance. Some who have enrolled had prior insurance that was cancelled. Others chose a new plan with a lower premium due to a subsidy.

The concept of providing health insurance coverage for everyone is not a new one. Up until Jan. 1 of this year, the U.S. was the only wealthy industrialized nation lacking a national health care program for people younger than 65 and not disabled.

The U.S. has had a national health care plan for persons age 65 and older for more than 40 years. Qualified persons younger than 65 with a disability also are included in the plan known as Medicare. Approximately 49 million people, about 15 percent of the population, are covered under Medicare. Most health care providers, including hospitals, accept Medicare. There are deductibles to satisfy, but you can purchase a supplement from a private insurance company to cover any out of pocket costs. Amazingly, it has worked quite well since the mid 1960s.

The cost of this plan? Everyone who works pays a tax of 1.45 percent of their gross income. The maximum tax to the employee is up to $3,625 annually. It’s higher if you make more than $200,000 a year. The employer matches the tax paid by the employee. You can enroll at 65 and the premium for Part B is $104 .90 per month. The Part A cost for most is $0, but for the few who have to pay, the cost is $426 per month. That’s it. You can enroll online at the government website in about 15 to 20 minutes. No income verification and no extensive personal information are required. You’re covered.

One last thing… Joliet residents had an opportunity to see and hear presentations from six consultants who are finalists for developing a downtown revitalization plan. According to a published report, Pam Owens, executive director of the City Center Partnership, said this study is different from past downtown development plans. This study, she said, will be used to develop an economic development plan that will identify downtown assets and shortcomings. That’s good news, but it does raise an interesting question. What was the purpose of the three previous downtown studies we spent money on? Maybe we should ask for a refund. Stay tuned.