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LETTERS for December 3 issue

By Staff | Dec 3, 2015

Politicians support science in line with their beliefs

Neil deGrasse Tyson should be called the country’s science teacher. He addresses a number of subjects, including human-caused climate change and GMOs. These are interesting because of the rage they cause.

The right disagrees with 97 percent of scientists who have determined that climate change is partially caused by human activity.

The left screams that GMOs are killing us, when practically every food you buy for consumption by humans is genetically modified.

Tyson, on GMOs, said, “There are no wild, seedless watermelons or wild cows. We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It’s called artificial selection.”

The best way to view the two sides’ opinions is: I love science except when it doesn’t support my beliefs.

Ezra Klein summed up Tyson’s thoughts: “In laboratory settings, there’s no evident difference between liberals and conservatives in their propensity to believe what they want, evidence be damned. One experiment showed you could get liberals to start doubting global warming (and conservatives to begin accepting it) by making clear that any solution would require geo-engineering. Another showed that both liberals and conservatives were more likely to rate someone an expert on climate change if they agreed with their conclusions. A third showed liberals were as resistant to evidence showing concealed carry laws are safe as conservatives were to evidence showing climate change is dangerous.”

This applies to the cane smoke crowd, too.



Many people contributed to the bypass effort

For the record, there were a few things left out of the recent story on the Lahaina Bypass. I know this as one of a dozen or more members of the task force set up by Lahaina Bypass Now when it began to push for change.

The group was funded by Maui Land and Pineapple Co. – one of the few things the company can be proud of doing in recent years.

One of Lahaina Bypass Now’s most significant early achievements, following a raucous meeting up in Kapalua, was to educate the director of the state Transportation Department, who grew to understand community concerns and who was a highly effective administrator who ended up paying a lot of attention to Maui and the West Side.

One of the most important initiatives of the bypass group during its mid-years was the organization of several days of facilitated meetings run by a Mainland specialist in such things. Every constituency in the community, including Native Hawaiians, was well-represented and listened to.

The second head of the bypass group was Theo Morrison, who was instrumental in orchestrating the highly successful International Festival of Canoes and “A Taste of Lahaina” at LahainaTown Action Committee, left, and after a short stint elsewhere, was chosen to lead Lahaina Bypass Now. Since leaving there, she has headed Lahaina Restoration Foundation as executive director.

During this period, the group had a great relationship with DOT, and this relationship was improved even further by Bob Pure. He deserves a lot of credit for keeping on top of our transportation needs then and continuing to this day.

One of the community meeting’s greatest achievements was to convince the Department of Transportation, when it widened Honoapiilani Highway coming into Lahaina, to not simply make it a strip of concrete. The group meeting pushed to have the widened highway landscaped. The result is today’s median strip with trees, foliage and nice flowers, which forms a very attractive entryway for the town.

Not to diminish the accomplishments of the West Maui Taxpayers Association in past years, but it should be pointed out that in my view, WMTA had little role in the bypass work post 2006, because its almost total focus was getting a West Maui Hospital.

Many, especially those on the other side of the Pali, consider the WMTA a spokesman for the community, which is not always the case. Unlike the Kula Community Association and others that hold quarterly and sometimes more frequent community meetings, the WMTA holds a single annual meeting in non-election years, which mainly consists of reports to the community from interest groups with little chance for discussion. That’s another subject that I will not go into.

Indeed, Bob Pure deserves a very big pat on the back for his work of many years on transportation matters, including a lot of it as an indivdual citizen. But others deserve a lot of credit, too.



Time to sign up for health insurance

The Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges opened for business earlier this month. Now, millions of Americans who do not get coverage through work have the opportunity to shop for policies that will take effect in 2016.

But they only have a few months to do so. This open enrollment period will end on Jan. 31, 2016.

Those who currently lack insurance should sign up without delay. And those who have had coverage this year should investigate whether there’s a better deal available to them for coverage that will kick in next year. Picking a plan can be complicated, but it’s worth it – and there’s help available to ensure that consumers make wise decisions for themselves and their families.

There are many advantages to getting covered. The most important, of course, is that insurance ensures access to medical care. Robust coverage can be a life-saver in the event of a serious medical emergency.

But insurance also keeps people from having to pay the Affordable Care Act’s penalty for not maintaining coverage – a penalty that increases dramatically in 2016.

This year, those who were uninsured paid either $325 per adult and $162.50 per child, up to a maximum of $975, or 2 percent of their income – whichever was greater.

In 2016, those who don’t secure coverage will pay much more. The per-person rates will more than double to $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, up to a maximum of $2,085. Wealthier uninsured will have to pay 2.5 percent of their incomes.

That’s a lot of money to spend on not getting insurance.

Additionally, federal tax credits subsidizing coverage are available through the exchanges for low-income individuals who need help paying for their policies. This year, 85 percent of those who bought private plans on the exchanges got financial assistance.

However, the online insurance exchanges can be very complex. Fortunately, buyers who find themselves overwhelmed can seek the expert counsel of a licensed, professional insurance broker. The easiest way to

do so is via a free tool available online at agent-finder.org.

Brokers are specifically trained to help consumers work their way through the maze of plans, coverage levels, deductibles, networks and premiums. Nearly three-quarters spend most of their time explaining coverage to clients, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And nearly two-thirds of brokers devote significant time to resolving claims questions or disputes with insurance carriers.

Selecting a health plan can be confusing. But help is readily available. And the Affordable Care Act provides incentives for buying insurance – carrots in the form of subsidies to those with low incomes, and sticks in the form of penalties for those who fail to sign up.

During this open enrollment season, getting covered should be a no-brainer.

JANET TRAUTWEIN, National Association of Health Underwriters