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An appreciation of summer in the lake-effect zone PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Thursday, 03 August 2017 15:44

Denizens of eastern Wisconsin have been heard to wistfully wonder why their forebears chose to settle beside a body of water whose cold vapors often cancel spring and replace it with an extension of winter that can last well into May.
    They got their answer last weekend when the weather along the Lake Michigan littoral might well have ranked as the most delightful on the entire planet. The heat of a summer sun shining unimpeded through a perfect blue sky was cooled just enough by a lake breeze that, thanks to water temperatures in the 70s, was refreshing rather than chilling.
    In Port Washington, the glories of summer in the lake-effect zone brought a joyous convergence of residents and visitors to a downtown thrumming with activity.
    For residents, part of the reason their city’s downtown lakefront area is such a fine place to celebrate summer is that some of their tax dollars are being put to good use there. This is evident in the extraordinary necklace of public parks that embraces the water, from Upper Lake and Veterans to Rotary and Coal Dock parks at the harbor.
    At Coal Dock park, the long-needed installation of a guardrail along its splendid promenade made the deep-water dock a safer but still stunning vantage point from which to appreciate an ever-changing nautical panorama.
     Across the harbor, the north breakwater this summer became a recreational phenomenon. An improvement campaign that began with a desperate (and ultimately successful) attempt by city officials to persuade the federal government to shore up the failing breakwater evolved into a project that added amenities that transformed the protective arm of the harbor into an easy-to-negotiate, half-mile-long walkway over the water. On calm-weather days, people by the hundreds join a virtual breakwater parade to experience Lake Michigan up close and behold the pretty city on its shore from the pierhead lighthouse.
    As important as those tax-supported features are, the fact is that much of what makes summer in downtown Port Washington so enjoyable is provided by the private sector. Let’s count the ways.
    The tremendously popular farmers market on Main Street, a Saturday morning ritual enjoyed as much as a social gathering as for its abundant offerings of fresh produce, is funded by Port Main Street from fees assessed on downtown business and property owners.
    A number of the events that enliven the summer, including the Race the Harbor bike races, Pirate Fest and the Paramount Music Festival, are funded in part by the Port Washington Tourism Council, as are the visits by the tall ship Denis Sullivan, using revenue from the room tax paid by the city’s two hotels and two bed-and-breakfast businesses.
    Private sponsors and organizations fund two big entertainment events, Fish Day and Lionsfest, as well the Saturday beer gardens in Lake Park. Even the city’s Fourth of July parade is paid for by business sponsors.
    Individual businesses are the mainstay of the downtown’s summer appeal, and shops and restaurants are busy with tourist traffic. Crowded sidewalk dining areas lend the city the atmosphere of a thriving resort town.
    A lively entrepreneurial spirit adds to the vibrancy. Ozaukee Press readers learned in a front page feature story last week that John Reichert, sculptor and co-proprietor of the Chocolate Chisel, has turned his creative energy to making exotically flavored ice cream in the Grand Avenue chocolate shop.
    On the opposite end of the downtown, award-winning brewmaster Adam Draeger has begun the process of turning the American Legion clubhouse on Lake Street into a brewpub.
    On top of all the other good news about fun in the sun in downtown Port, we can add the assurance of a plentiful supply of two fundamental elements of the rites of summer—ice cream and beer.

 
The wrong health debate PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 26 July 2017 19:41

Congress could have avoided the antipathy of the American people over its increasingly farcical attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act if it was having the right health care debate.
    The wrong debate, underway now mostly behind closed doors, is about how to pay for health care—or more accurately, how to limit what government pays for health care for its citizens.
    The right debate would be about how to bring American health care up to the standard set by other well-endowed nations. It is an embarrassment, with tragic overtones, that this country that leads the world in so many ways is a straggler when it comes to the health of its people.
    The U.S. ranks 42nd among all countries in human longevity, according to the World Factbook compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency.
    The rate of infant mortality in the U.S. is worse than that of any industrialized country. American babies are twice as likely to die in their first year as babies in a number of European countries.
    American women are far more likely to die in childbirth than women in other developed nations, according the World Health Organization.
    The countries that lead the U.S. in health have in common that care is provided through national health systems paid for by taxpayers.
    The U.S. doesn’t need comparisons with other countries to see how national health care works in keeping people healthier. Its own limited version of so-called single-payer health coverage—Medicare—demonstrates it.
     After Americans qualify for Medicare at age 65, life expectancy improves to near that of European nations.
    Medicaid, another limited form of national health coverage, has proved successful in keeping Americans too poor to afford health insurance healthier. Yet one of the proposals in the ACA repeal effort is to reduce federal Medicaid spending by $772 billion over the next decade.
    Those seeking to weaken federal Medicaid say the states will fill the gap. Not only is there no assurance, or even likelihood, of that happening, some states are hostile to the very concept of Medicaid. Wisconsin, unfortunately, is an example.
    Here Gov. Scott Walker is pushing to require people applying for Medicaid to undergo drug testing—urinate in a cup to qualify for health care.
    In an op-ed piece in last week’s Ozaukee Press that should be read by the members of Congress now mired in the wrong health debate, John Torinus of West Bend wrote, “Every health plan, whether funded by a company, by the government or through an insurance policy, should provide proactive primary care.”
    Torinus is a nationally recognized expert on corporate health insurance programs, but his point that providing the means to staying healthy is the key to a healthier populace and more affordable health care applies to government programs as much as to those provided by employers.
    Universal proactive primary care is a fundamental feature of the world’s most effective national health programs. In the U.S., it is a luxury many cannot afford. Until Congress has the right health debate, that won’t change.

 
Better health care is the key to solving the ‘repeal and replace’ problem PDF Print E-mail
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Written by JOHN TORINUS   
Wednesday, 19 July 2017 18:49

   The Republican Party has driven its “repeal and replace” legislation into a box canyon. It isn’t selling with the American people. But there is a way out.
    I have talked with many of the great innovators in the delivery of health care over the last decade, and they have come up with a far better business model.
    Based on those insights, I am offering this speech to House Speaker Paul Ryan free of charge:
    My fellow Americans:
    The debate over U.S. health care has carried us way off track. We have spent far too much time on insurance reform and not enough time on real reform of the delivery and cost of care.
    I look to my own state of Wisconsin for innovations. The following breakthroughs have been tested and proven to work in my state and elsewhere.
    n Provide primary care for every family or individual. Some call it a medical home. Many company plans already offer this huge benefit. They do it because it’s the right thing to do, and because it saves big money by helping them avoid the hospital. QuadGraphics created its first medical home here in 1990 and has saved more than 20% in health insurance costs. Every health plan, whether funded by a company, by the government or through an insurance policy, should provide proactive primary care.
    n Set single price for most procedures. Car repair shops give you an estimate, and they must call back if the price is going beyond what they quoted. Clinics and hospitals must do the same. I know they can do it, because companies in my back yard are contracting for “bundled prices.” They are saving as much as 50% on elective of care.
    n Do you cringe when you enter a hospital, fearful of either an infection, a medical accident or an astronomical bill? I know my family does. There is a fix. It’s called lean health care, the same kind of disciplines that car companies have applied to sharply improve the quality of their vehicles. Several Wisconsin hospitals have led the charge to lean practices, and they have driven out waste, sharply lowered costs and eliminated defects, such as infections that can prove lethal.
    Premiums will come down if people stay healthy through proactive primary care. It’s the underlying costs that matter.
    We will need to create insurance pools for people with catastrophic issues. A tax on each insurance policy, whether the insured is on an employer plan or individual policy, will fund the high-risk pools.
    We will ask employers to continue to offer coverage. By and large, they have done a great job with their plans.
    And we should scrap Medicaid for people who can’t afford care in favor of a model based on Medicare Advantage, a far better managed program.
    Both parties should see a lot to like in these proven best practices. Let’s hammer out a bipartisan plan that works for all. Only bipartisan legislation will stand the test of time.
    Torinus, of West Bend, writes about health care and political issues on his blog at johntorinus.com.

 
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