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Belmont officials should be protecting residents & our environment

To The Daily Sun,

Belmont residents, please vote "yes" on the ballot question at Town Meeting to restrict industrial development in the aquifer protection zone.

We should all be thankful, appreciative and are lucky to have Mr. George Condodemetraky advocating for the healthy and welfare of all the people in our town, as well as the environment, rivers, streams and wildlife.

He is the sole sound of reason and has our backs when it comes to the drinking water and environment in Belmont and our neighboring towns, Northfield and Tilton. The issue of any industrial use on top of a viable, fragile, important aquifer is simply dangerous and wrong.

The fact that the Planning Board and town officials are saying if we vote "yes" on the ballot at town meeting, to restrict further development on the aquifer, that our taxes will go up, is an unsubstantiated threat and tantamount to blackmail.

We can't change the fact that our town does sit on a very large aquifer that is under the aquifer protection zone. What part of "aquifer protection zone" does the current town selectmen, planners and officials not understand?

There should be no discussions or threats. Our town officials should be protecting its residents and environment from potential pollution of byproducts that industrial use would produce from waste transfer stations, petroleum, propane gas storage, salvage and junkyard runoff. They should deny any current and future requests for industrial development in this aquifer protection zone.

Unfortunately I will be out of town for the Jan. 6 meeting at 5 p.m. in the Corner Meeting House. I urge all residents interested in protecting your health and the health of the environment to vice your concerns Jan. 6. Then vote "yes" on the ballot question at Town Meeting, to restrict any development in the aquifer protection zone.

Gay Dougherty


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Collapse of Obamacare insurer in New York is a cautionary tale

To The Daily Sun,

The collapse of Obamacare's largest co-op, Health Republic of New York, can be attributed in part to heightened regulatory control by the state. According to the analysis from the Empire Center, a "breakdown" in oversight from the state Department of Financial Services (DFS) and artificial cuts in Health Republic's premiums may have led to the ultimate failure of the co-op. Health Republic sold the cheapest plans available on New York's state-run exchange and enrolled about 215,000. According to the Empire Center, Health Republic offered consumers broad networks, and its plans were significantly cheaper than those sold by competitors like United HealthCare and Aetna.

"The rapid rise and costly fall of Health Republic Insurance of New York is a cautionary tale for policymakers in Albany as well as in Washington," the report's author, Bill Hammond, wrote. "Despite heavy federal subsidies and robust enrollment growth, Health Republic lost money at such a clip that state regulators forced it to shut down as of Nov. 30, on barely two months' notice."

As a result of its low premiums, Health Republic experienced significant losses in 2014. Its customers' medical claims and administrative costs outpaced the revenue it was bringing in through premiums. To remedy its losses, Health Republic requested a 15.4 percent increase in rates for individuals and 5.9 percent increase in rates for small group plans in 2015. The state DFS approved lower rates.

"Although Health Republic's premiums were already among the lowest in the state; and though its financial report showed it was losing money the fledgling company did not escape the state's rate-setting knife," the report said.

For 2016 coverage, Health Republic requested a 14.4 percent rate hike for individual plans and a 20 percent increase for small group plans. The state lessened the hike for individuals to 14 percent, and approved Health Republic's request for small group plans. Like many of the other 23 co-ops which received a total of $2.5 billion from the federal government, Health Republic relied on money from Obamacare's risk corridor program to offset its losses. The risk corridor program sought to limit the risk for insurers in the market.

According to the Empire Center, Health Republic requested $243 million from the risk corridor program. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced in October it would pay 12.6 percent of the request. As a result, Health Republic, along with seven other co-ops, announced it would be closing its doors. It experienced significant losses and received lower-than-expected payments from the risk corridor program.

"Had New York's regulators ordered higher rates for Health Republic from the beginning, the company could have avoided some of the steep losses that made it so dependent on risk-corridor funding," Hammond wrote. "While it's unclear that such action would have been enough to save the company, DFS's rate-cutting, in retrospect, was unquestionably productive." Health Republic closed its doors Nov. 30, leaving its 215,000 customers to find coverage for a month or go without and secure new insurance for 2016 through the state-run exchange. "If the goal is making health coverage more affordable, the surest way to achieve that objective is not for the state to impose price controls, but for it to roll back its own high taxes and costly coverage mandates," the report said.

What Obamacare has accomplished is to confiscate part of your income at a rate set by unelected regulators accountable to who? Not only that ... but it forces everyone into one-size-fits-all coverage packages. Why does this make sense? Census.gov now says there are fewer people working ... than there are receiving government "benefits."

Have we had enough government help yet? It's time to be Cruz'in with Ted in 2016.

Marc Abear


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