Honest discussion needed

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In one of his first official actions as President, Donald Trump signed an executive order that stated his administration would seek “prompt repeal” of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. The order also granted federal agencies authority and discretion to relieve the “burdens” of the Affordable Care Act from individuals, insurers, businesses and state governments. The executive order does not by itself repeal the Affordable Care Act. It could, however, hasten its demise by making insurance even more expensive as younger, healthier Americans opt out without penalty, leaving a greater percentage of older, sicker people in the risk pool.

The executive order also gives states the flexibility to add restrictions for eligibility in Medicaid, such as a requirement that poor adults seek work in order to qualify, which could leave some of our most vulnerable citizens without medical coverage. The Republicans have so far been ineffective in communicating their plan to ensure Americans have access to necessary medical services.

Locally, the Republican majority City Council are considering an ordinance, sponsored by Mayor Allan Fung, to prohibit curbside panhandling by restricting “distribution to and receiving from occupants of vehicles.” To clear ACLU constitutional challenges, the ordinance is framed as one of traffic safety, enacted to reduce distracted driving. Representatives of the administration, however, have discussed the need to move the panhandlers in particular away from growing retail and business districts.

“This isn’t an easy decision, but it’s a weighted one and an important one,” Fung said. “I urge you to pass this amended version when it comes up because I believe personally that it is the right thing to do, and it provides a safe way for individuals to still get their message out and do what’s needed.”

And while the governor has been out promoting free tuition and jobs, jobs, jobs, the state continues to have a chronic “skills gap,” a mismatch between the jobs that are available and the education and preparation of our citizens for those jobs.

Penalizing people for being old, sick, homeless, chronically unemployed, poorly educated or addicted does not make for a healthy society.

What’s missing here, and what is critically needed, is an honest discussion about our responsibility as a people to protect the social fabric of our community, and an action plan that moves beyond pushing the problem out of sight.

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