Too often politicians and pundits forget that public policy impacts real people, often for the worse. Real Colorado women have given us their stories with the hope that elected leaders and candidates for public office will listen. Do you have a story to share? We can be your voice. Tell us at [email protected].
Karyn received her health insurance through her husband’s work. When the company he worked for went bankrupt, the family’s insurance disappeared along with the job. They couldn't even get COBRA because the company was bankrupt. Karyn’s employer didn’t provide insurance. To make matters more precarious, Karyn was pregnant with their first child. If only Karyn and her family had insurance independent of their employers. Unfortunately, if the family applied for private insurance, the cost would be significant. Individuals do not get the tax advantages or affordable rates offered to those who get their insurance through their employer. If only Congress had passed real reform and provided tax credits for individuals and families who purchase their own health policies. Congress could have allowed individuals and families who remain continuously insured access to group rates. Congress could have allowed individuals to shop for insurance packages across state lines and find the best and most affordable plan. Instead, Congress is hiring more than 10,000 new IRS agents to make sure everyone buys government-approved insurance packages, which may include many services Karyn doesn’t need or want. If she doesn’t buy one of these packages, she’ll have to pay the insurance tax. Karyn wishes Congress would repeal the healthcare law and enact reforms that give her greater power, more options, and a real health insurance market.
Until she met her second husband, Amy was a divorced mother of three children. She had to patch together three jobs to support herself and her family. Amy never resented her ex but she did resent another man in her life—Uncle Sam and the bite he took out of her paycheck. It’s hard to believe, but federal, state, and local taxes consume a third of a family’s income. The average Colorado worker has to work until April 15 to pay for their taxes and on April 16 starts working for herself. Amy didn’t mind paying taxes for legitimate government responsibilities like building roads, paying police officers and soldiers, and maintaining national parks. What she resented was paying for sugar subsidies, corporate bailouts, and bridges to nowhere. For Amy, money isn’t just dollars and cents, money is time. Every minute working to pay taxes is time away from her kids.
Shanneen owns a small daycare center. The business provides income her family needs and the kind of small, caring environment that the families she serves want for their children. Shanneen’s troubles began when she decided to get a state license. Wanting to meet all of the requirements, Shanneen took a class offered by the state on how to meet the licensing rules. The class would have been more beneficial if the regulations didn’t change every year and were subject to interpretation by the regulators. While some of the health and safety requirements are necessary, others defy commonsense, especially for small businesses. For example, Shanneen has to post a sign above her bathroom sink describing how to wash hands. She is the only one who works there and the babies and toddlers cannot read the sign. Shanneen is required to post a sign above the changing table showing how to change a diaper. Shanneen has been changing diapers for years. If a child gets a splinter in her finger, Shanneen can bandage the splinter or call the parent to come remove it; but she cannot remove the splinter herself. Shanneen knows how to take out a splinter. These regulations provide no benefit yet steal time and money away from Shanneen and what she does best—caring for kids.
In her early twenties, Krista considered herself an advocate for the poor. A liberal Democrat, she regularly talked about the plight of the poor and complained that the government should do more about it. One day, she found herself asking an uncomfortable question, “What have I actually done for the unfortunate in my community?” She concluded that she’d done nothing. She neither gave money to charity nor volunteered with such organizations. She paid her taxes and expected someone else to do the work for her. She was disgusted with her own hypocrisy and decided that from that point on she would give a percentage of her income to charities with a good track record of helping the disadvantaged. She also decided to volunteer regularly with such organizations. It’s been twenty years since that fateful day. “The more the government does, the less the people will do,” Krista is fond of saying. Indeed, research has shown that charitable giving declined after the inception of the welfare state. The country need not continue down this road. Sometimes all it takes is a still, small voice to cause a change of heart.
Becky has long been a supporter of public schools. Two of her three children are flourishing academically at their neighborhood public schools. Becky’s third child, a seventh grader named Griffin, however, has struggled. As with many children in the middle of the autistic spectrum, Griffin has unique challenges. He does not belong with children with severe needs but has a tough time in a regular middle school classroom. The chaos and lack of structure are a hindrance to his learning. Under the new Douglas County pilot voucher program, Griffin received a voucher to attend a small school that met his needs. Incidentally, the $4,200 voucher was less than what the district would have spent to educate Griffin at the local public school. Unfortunately, the program was halted because of a lawsuit that is making its way to the Colorado Supreme Court. Griffin lost his voucher. Unable to return to his former school, Griffin is being educated at home through a district online program. While the online school provides academic content, it lacks social opportunities. Griffin misses being around other students. Unfortunately, without the voucher he has no other options.
Karen remembers better times. Her husband runs a one-man printing shop that serves the needs of small, independent construction businesses. The business supported the family until the spring of 2009. Normally spring heralds the beginning of the busy season for the construction industry yet few blue print orders were coming in. Clients were vanishing. Many went bankrupt. Politicians talked about “shovel ready jobs" but there was no shoveling to speak of. Ill-conceived stimulus programs and bail-outs failed to spark the economy. Now it’s 2012 and the construction sector still hasn’t revived. Now Karen, a stay-at-home mom, has gone to work. Together, Karen and her husband amount to one full time worker who makes two thirds of what he used to earn. Karen and her husband will do what it takes to support their three young boys. On tough days, though, Karen wistfully remembers an economy that supported her family.
Dr. Jill will do the right thing even if it costs her a career in medicine. As a radiologist specializing in mammography, Dr. Jill adheres to the American Cancer Society’s recommendations that women receive screening mammograms at the age of 40 and every year thereafter as a precaution against breast cancer. In 2014, when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, many women will no longer have access to annual mammograms. A government panel has ruled that mammograms should be conducted only on women 50 and older on an every other year basis. She is concerned that the rule will apply to individuals who participate in government managed health care be it through Medicare, Medicaid or state health care exchanges. If women want mammograms before the age of 50, they will have to pay out of pocket. It will be only a matter of time before private insurers follow suit. Dr. Jill will continue to advise all women 40 and older to receive a screening mammogram because she cares about her patients and she has seen how early detection saves lives. With cancer, finding a tumor late is often too late. Unfortunately, choosing the welfare of her patients over government rules could eventually mean a fine, loss of payment, or dismissal from participating in government care. That would spell the end of her practice. It’s no wonder that, according to one survey, 83% of doctors have considered leaving medicine when the law takes effect.