Guest opinion: ColoradoCare threatens workers’ comp system | PostIndependent.com

Guest opinion: ColoradoCare threatens workers’ comp system

I’ve been saying for months, along with other Colorado business leaders, that Amendment 69 is a bad idea. The effort to create a single-payer health-care system, called ColoradoCare, would have a profound and disastrous effect on the state, including my area of concern, workers’ compensation insurance.

Now, there’s new evidence that ColoradoCare would cost more money than it would ever generate. A recent study by the independent Colorado Health Institute pinpoints that Amendment 69 would scarcely raise enough money in its first year to cover existing medical costs, and in 10 years would be $10 billion in the hole.

All of these costs would be paid for by ever-increasing payroll taxes on both employers and employees as well as by taxing non-payroll income.

Clearly, every Coloradan will be affected if ColoradoCare is passed in November, but the impact on employers, injured workers and the entire workers’ comp system may be even more dramatic.

We know that Colorado’s workers’ compensation system is one of the best in the nation because of the way it effectively balances reasonable premiums for employers and fair benefits for injured workers. The system helps retain business and lure new employers with its stability and financial security, making it a prize in state’s impressive economic trophy case.

But that stability would be shaken by ColoradoCare. Under current law, workers’ comp insurance covers the health-care needs of injured workers and replaces their lost wages, or indemnity, for as long as they are out of work. But by bringing the medical payments of workers’ comp under its umbrella, ColoradoCare would strip injured workers of a highly effective medical care system. The system ensures injured workers receive high quality care in a timely way from physicians who specialize in occupational medicine, and gives them opportunity to safely return to work.

Workers’ comp is extremely complex, which is why California and Vermont – the only other states to seriously explore (and ultimately back away from) single-payer health care – excluded workers’ comp from their proposals.

Amendment 69’s backers say that integrating workers’ comp into ColoradoCare will save Colorado businesses money because their workers’ comp costs will go down.

We expect, though, that any workers’ comp savings will be eroded quickly by lower worker productivity and increased wage replacement costs. That’s because ColoradoCare won’t have mechanisms in place to do all the things many workers’ comp insurers do, including working with employers to keep their employees safe and minimize the potential for injury, and working with doctors to help injured employees get back to work in a timely and safe way. Even things like paying for injured workers to travel to and from doctor appointments are not accounted for in ColoradoCare.

And that’s not the only way ColoradoCare would diminish service and increase costs. Currently, when a workplace injury is caused by a third party, workers’ comp insurers can seek to recover money from that third party through a process called subrogation. But Amendment 69 would give ColoradoCare first rights to subrogate, weakening workers’ comp insurers’ ability to collect for lost wages. That would result in millions of dollars of otherwise recoverable money not being refunded to Colorado employers every year.

Amendment 69 also does a disservice to Colorado employers because, by leaving work comp insurers with only wage replacement, it eliminates insurers’ ability to manage costs. That would lead to many insurers leaving the state, destabilizing the entire system. Employers will pay the price.

As a political subdivision of the state, Pinnacol cannot donate corporate money to campaign for or against a ballot initiative. However, we can take a position on an issue such as this that directly affects us, and our board has voted to oppose Amendment 69.

Colorado has proven it can make workers’ comp work for employers and injured employees – let’s not shake it up with the cost and uncertainty that would come with ColoradoCare.

Phil Kalin is president and CEO of Pinnacol Assurance.

Planning for Eastbank school begins in earnest

One of the busiest principals in the Roaring Fork School District this school year doesn’t even have a school yet.

Adam Volek was hired last April to lead the new pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school that is now under construction at the district’s Eastbank site south of Glenwood Springs.

Volek officially started his new job at the beginning of August. He and district officials have since laid out an aggressive time line to develop the school’s mission, attendance boundaries, academic programming, student assessment strategies, leadership plan, staffing and out-of-area enrollment policies.

One of the first orders of business will be to come up with an official name for the new $34.5 million school that was part of the larger $122 million bond issue approved last November. The new school is slated to open for the 2017-18 school year.

“This will be a great opportunity to engage the entire community and for everyone to participate, regardless of age or association with the schools, to come up with something fun and creative,” Volek said of plans to unveil a school name, mascot, colors and logos by November.

In addition, the program team will define a vision and identity for the school “that describes the five-year outcomes for the school and captures the community’s hopes and desires, meets the needs of our student population, and aligns with the district mission and strategic priorities,” according to an outline for planning the new school.

“We’ve already had a lot of discussion around community engagement and how we can bring different people into the fold,” Volek said after presenting the school development outline to the RFSD Board of Education Wednesday.

A school advisory committee is expected to be established by October, and by November the district hopes to define and communicate to the public the school attendance boundaries and enrollment process.

The new pre-K-8 school is a major part of the district’s facilities master plan, and was included in the bond issue in an effort to ease overcrowding at Glenwood Springs’ two elementary schools, Sopris Elementary and GSES, and Glenwood Middle School.

The new school will primarily serve the area just south of Glenwood Springs, including any new development along the Colorado 82 corridor toward Cattle Creek, plus Ironbridge, the West Bank and West Bank Mesa neighborhoods, and the Red Canyon and Spring Valley areas.

The school has been designed to accommodate 450 students, including 150 in the middle school grades of sixth, seventh and eighth.

But the exact number of students that will occupy the new building when it opens will depend on the attendance boundaries. The district also expects to have an enrollment policy for any families living outside the attendance area that want to enroll their students in the new school.

Bus transportation will be provided for any students living within the attendance area for the school, Rob Stein, superintendent for RFSD schools, said at the Wednesday meeting in Carbondale. However, district policy requiring families that reside outside a school attendance area to provide their own student transportation will most likely apply to the new school as well, he said.

A big part of the transition will also revolve around which teachers from existing schools will transfer to the new K-8 school, and any impacts that might have on the schools that will see a drop in enrollment as a result, Stein said.

There is not expected to be a net increase in teachers between the affected schools with the opening of the new school, unless overall student enrollment increases, he said.

“Some teachers will leave their existing schools,” Stein said. “But my experience is that, when something like this happens, people are lining up to be a part of it. I doubt there will be any involuntary displacement.”

Volek agreed that the goal will be to minimize impacts on existing schools.

“We realize that Eastbank doesn’t exist in isolation,” he said. “There is going to be some impact, but I think most of that will be positive impact.

“Our job is to make sure we do this in an efficient and supportive way,” Volek said.

According to the school development time line, a personnel committee will be formed and an interview process created by October. Volek said he also hopes to have a parent-teacher organization established by December.

A school start-up budget should be determined by February, and some start-up staff could be on board by January, Volek said.

Information about the planning efforts to open the new school for next school year will also be shared during the upcoming Glenwood back-to-school nights in September, he said.

Greater Eagle Fire names acting chief, explores interim options

EAGLE — Following the arrest of Fire Chief Kurtis Vogel on charges of stealing more than $120,000 from the city of Sterling, the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District has named Division Chief Bill Kennedy as the acting fire chief.

Vogel remains on administrative leave without pay until further notice due to his unavailability to perform his duties.

Following Vogel’s Aug. 11 arrest, the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District and the accounting firm Marchetti & Weaver, LLC, completed an internal audit of controls and account. No discrepancies were found during the review.

Meeting scheduled

A special meeting for the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District Board of directors has been scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. to reconsider Vogel’s status. The meeting will be held at the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District Station 9, 425 E. Third St. in Eagle. Board members Kraige Kinney, Eric Collom and acting Fire Chief Bill Kennedy are pursuing potential candidates for fire chief on an interim basis.

“The safety of our community and our visitors are of the utmost importance to the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District’s board of directors,” noted a press release from the board dated Wednesday. “Emergency response, day-to-day operations, training, and fire prevention activities are continuing with business as usual without interruption.”

Letter: Rachesky, history and welfare

Oh, Mr. Rachesky, I love how you provide so many wonderful examples in history where the Republicans have always been the crusaders of justice and the Democrats are evildoers ruining the country. They freed the slaves and established the right to vote. Too bad you didn’t finish your own lesson plan and realize the parties switched platforms overtime between the 1860s and 1930s. Today’s political parties have little in common with the parties that existed over 100 years ago.

We do agree on a couple things though. I agree that we have way too many people on food stamps and welfare, and I too hate to see my money go to people who are unworthy of support. However, people who are struggling to afford food and find jobs are worthy of support. Every penny given to them is instantly injected back into the economy. They support your job and mine.

The majority of those on food stamps and welfare right now will most likely not need it a year or two down the line. Trickle-down economics only trickles the money into the wealthy’s bank accounts, where it sits gathering interest.

To decrease the number of people on welfare, I hope you are doing your part and support legislation that strengthens unions, encourages businesses to pay their employees a living wage, cuts taxes for the working class and support affordable education. Wealth is built from the ground up by empowering the working class, not putting them at the mercy of the rich.

It frightens me that you think a person with four bankruptcies and a record of not paying his investors is a shrewd businessman. I also question your belief that a senator, secretary of state, and first lady has never managed people or wrote a check. I’m not going to ask you to support Hillary. I only ask that you help keep Donald Trump where he belongs, out of the White House and in his gaudy hotels.

Camille Vogt

Carbondale

Letter: Shalom and coal

Many Judeo-Christian traditions affirm God’s call to shalom for the world. Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann writes that “Shalom is the substance of the biblical vision of one community embracing all creation.” It is a vision that sees peace, justice and harmony for all of God’s creation. Shalom is communal — the whole community is involved — and it is important to include progress toward shalom in discussions of the various choices that face us individually and societally.

The current federal coal leasing review offers an opportunity. The federal government owns about one-third of the land with known coal reserves. Coal jobs have fueled our economy for decades, as have the coal revenue to our governments. The money supports thousands of workers and enables investments in projects that serve communities. But studies have found coal royalties paid to governments have been nonuniform, and in most cases, insufficient. We’ve been selling Colorado’s coal for 23 cents a ton — over 17 tons for the price of a Big Mac. That’s not fair to citizens or coal-related workers, and it needs to be adjusted.

These and other potential reforms to the leasing program, and impacts to coal prices from broader market forces, directly affect communities with coal economies. While it is vital to work toward a just transition to a different future for the people involved now, we have to remember that coal is part of a broad range of other relationships in our larger community. We must consider the human and ecological impacts of coal far from the mines and generating plants, and far into the future.

Experts say that 80 percent of all fossil fuel reserves, including 92 percent of U.S. coal, need to stay in the ground if we are to have any chance of avoiding ecological damage. That basically means that no new leases for coal should be issued, ever. Some communities and industries will indeed be hard hit, and they will need help, which, in the spirit of shalom, we should provide. But the long-term systemic damage from mining, shipping and burning more coal is far greater than short-term local impacts.

These inherent conflicts could be mitigated and addressed by holding a vision of shalom. If we reframe the conversation in terms of making progress toward a multidimensional shalom — peace, justice and harmony for all of God’s creation — rather than of single issues such as carbon emissions, specific kinds of jobs or revenue, we can find the space we need to move through these tumultuous times toward a better future for ourselves and for the Earth, our only home.

Mary Sealing, Rev. Brenda Brown

First Congregational United Church of Christ in Grand Junction

Nonprofit spotlight: Club Rotario opens doors with college scholarships for locals

Sometimes all it takes to achieve a big goal is just one vote of confidence from people who want to see you succeed.

Jesse Monsalve knows this scenario well. A former Glenwood Springs High School student and freshly minted Colorado Mountain College graduate with two associate degrees under his belt, Monsalve, 20, says that encouragement he received from the Roaring Fork Rotary Club, which came in the form of a scholarship, helped him pursue his dream of becoming a professional theater artist.

“I have actually received a scholarship from them twice,” he said. “Now I want to return to CMC for another degree in new media, to go along with the two I already have in theater and business administration.”

Monsalve, who moved to Colorado from Colombia when he was 15, is one of scores of young, new residents and first-generation students who have received Roaring Fork Rotary scholarships to pursue higher education at CMC in recent years. The group, which shares 501(c)3 status under the registered nonprofit Roaring Fork Valley Rotary Foundation, is more frequently known as Club Rotario.

The club hopes their scholarships will help open doors for students whose families may not otherwise have had the financial means to attend college.

“Once I finish here, I am thinking about moving on to a school in maybe Chicago or New York to earn a bachelor’s and eventually a master’s degree,” Monsalve said of his ambitions. “This summer I have been saving money and working four jobs ­­— three of those I got because of my theater degree from CMC. So, full circle, I don’t think this could have happened without receiving the scholarship money.”

Other local recipients include Walter Vasquez, who dreams of opening his own biotech laboratory someday and is currently pursuing a degree in chemistry at CMC Spring Valley, and Heather McCain, a mother of two who recently earned a bachelor’s of business administration at CMC Rifle.

“I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t think it was possible,” McCain said. “For someone like me without much extra time or resources, the only way I could attend college was with the help of scholarships. So I am very thankful for the assistance I received.”

Club Rotario has awarded more than $100,000 in scholarship funds to date. Founded in 2004 with the goal of forming a predominantly Spanish-speaking local Rotary chapter, the club now includes 15 members hailing from four different countries who work in a variety of professions.

“We have a huge focus on raising funds for our local student scholarships. For many immigrant families who are struggling simply to put food on the table, the thought of putting a kid through college might seem impossible,” said Jen Elliott-Quevedo, Club Rotario president. “So, our goal is to take a bit of that financial worry away — to give the kids an opportunity to take that initial leap and continue their education.”

Club Rotario’s scholarship program is one branch of its larger mission to integrate the local Anglo and Latino communities.

“In the valley, unfortunately, we frequently encounter a mindset of ‘us and them,’ which can result in misunderstanding and animosity. As a multicultural group ourselves, we want to try to break down this barrier in the community,” Elliott-Quevedo noted. “We hope to foster as much cross-cultural communication and understanding as we can.”

This Sunday, Club Rotario will host its 15th annual Festival las Americas, a culmination of its efforts to raise scholarship money and bring the entire community together. A fundraiser and a celebration of Latino culture, the event will take place in Carbondale’s Sopris Park from 11 a.m. to dusk. There is a $10 entrance fee for ages 12 and older.

“This year Festival las Americas is bigger than ever and all are equally welcome. It’s very kid-friendly, with plenty of food and entertainment for everyone in the family,” Elliott-Quevedo said.

Throughout the day, festivities will include everything from face painting and bounce houses to the event’s ever-popular dunk tank. Food vendors will be selling edible delights featuring a range of flavors from the Americas while entertainers perform for the crowd. The lineup of acts includes local magician Jammin’ Jim, jazz fusion artist Chantil Dukart, Denver’s own La Nueva Lealtad, and headliners Grupo Control from Texas.

In 2015, Festival las Americas drew more than 1,000 attendees. Elliott-Quevedo hopes that this year’s event will draw an even larger number.

“The more people who come, the more we can raise for scholarships,” she said. Proceeds from tickets, vendor fees and beer garden sales will all go toward the club’s scholarship program to help meet their goal of awarding $15,000 among 20 CMC students this year.

The impact of these scholarships continues to ripple throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, as young graduates use their degrees to carve professional lives for themselves beyond what they may have ever thought possible.

“We believe education is key in helping students reach their goals and dreams,” said Elliott-Quevedo. “And we hope that over time, these students will not only feel more integrated in the community but will bring continued understanding across both cultural groups in the valley.”

Charles A. Marshall (September 12, 1960 – August 22, 2016)

Charles A. Marshall had a courageous 26 month battle with cancer that ended surrounded by family on Monday morning August 22, 2016. He never complained about the many ups and downs that came with this journey. Anytime anyone would ask him how he was he replied “I am good!” He was a fighter till the end.

Charles served in the US Army from 1982 through 1988.

He is survived by his wife and caregiver through this journey, Jackie Caufield Marshall. Two sons, Marine Sergeant Zachary A. Marshall stationed at Cherry Point, N.C. and Ryan (Amanda) Dickover of Dunnegan, MO. He was one of 6 children born to Bill and Betty Marshall both who preceded him in death. His siblings, Janet, Kenneth, Carolyn, Gary and Douglas all survive him as well as many nieces and nephews. In addition to many family and friend is his long time childhood friend and brother in-law John E. Caufield. He is preceded in death by his first wife Debbie Heidland Marshall who lost her life mountain climbing the Annapurna in 1997.

Local memorial services will be at Veltus Park on Saturday September 17, 2016 from 12-4 p.m. followed by one back in Missouri in the Spring of 2017.

Randall Scott Withee

Randall Scott Withee, 59, passed from this life at his home in Rifle on Tuesday, Aug. 23rd. He was born in September of 1956 in Rapid City, SD, to Warren and Betty Withee. After moving to Colorado Springs at a young age, he went back to Rapid City to attend the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. In 1980 he married Jane (Krohn) Withee in Rapid City and the couple was blessed with four children. Randy worked at various engineering jobs during the first years of marriage, including projects in Wyoming, Idaho, New Mexico, and Arizona, before re-locating to Rifle in 1990. At first, Randy worked with MK Ferguson on the UMTRA project. For the past 17 years he worked as an engineer for Garfield County. Over the years he was very involved with his children’s activities, sharing his love for sports by coaching recreational soccer, baseball, and basketball. He enjoyed playing golf and spending time with his family. A baptized member of Christ, Randy loved to serve the Lord by being involved in his church. He is survived by his wife, Jane, and children: Brian (Jennifer) of Littleton, Justin (Nicole) of Highlands Ranch, Jenna (Brandon Lampe) of Albuquerque, and Jacob of Phoenix. He was a proud grandfather to Amelia, Braden, Braxton, and Colton. He is survived by siblings Warren of Atlanta, GA, Craig (Patti) of Bend, OR, and Janie (Kenny) of Black Hawk, CO. Randy was preceded in death by his parents and sister-in-law Patricia. He leaves behind his mother-in-law, numerous brothers- and sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, cousins, and a host of friends. He will be greatly missed! Services will be held at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, 652 East 5th St. in Rifle at 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 27th. Memorials can be made to Emmanuel Lutheran Preschool and Kindergarten.

Warren Charles Mercer Griggs (April 16, 1937 – August 21, 2016)

It is with sadness that we share the passing of beloved husband, father, and Nonno Warren Charles Mercer Griggs. Warren passed away in the early morning hours of Sunday the 21st of August, 2016.

Warren was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the 16th of April 1937, the son of Drs. Oscar Broughton Griggs and Sara Abigail Mercer Griggs. He was the grandson of Dr. Warren Charles Mercer, and Elsie Kebler Mercer, and Dr. Oscar Philander Griggs and Ella Broughton Griggs.

Joining his father’s military ties, he served twenty-two years in the Army, served two tours in Vietnam and was proud of his military service and service to his country. Hewas also a Mason.

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Rosanna, his son, Warren Charles Mercer Griggs II, Lt. Colonel (retired), of Elizabethtown, Kentucky; Glenn Matthew Griggs of Denver, Colorado, Sean M. Griggs, M.D.., also of Denver and his sisters, Sara Cowell of Virginia, and Elsie Jane Bender of California, and six grandchildren.

He will be laid to rest at a later date in the family plot at Union Hill Cemetery in Kenneth Square, Pennsylvania, following a family gathering. No services are planned locally.

Input sought for BLM White River office OHV areas

MEEKER — The Bureau of Land Management is seeking community feedback regarding four off-highway vehicle open areas in Northwest Colorado.

Earlier this month, BLM released the preliminary travel area alternatives for the Travel and Transportation Resource Management Plan Amendment for the White River Field Office. Preliminary alternatives determine which portions of the field office’s purview — nearly 1.5 million acres of BLM land — would be open to cross-country motorized and mechanized use, which would be limited to designated routes and would be closed to motorized and mechanized vehicles.

BLM will host site tours for the public at four sites: 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 7 at the LO7 Hill area near Meeker; 9 to 10:30 a.m. Sept. 8 in the North Dinosaur area near Rangely; from 11 a.m. to noon Sept. 8 in the North Rangely area; and from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Rangely Rock Crawling Park.

Exact meeting spots will be provided by White River Field Office.

Interested parties will traverse the sites to determine which areas are best to remain open to vehicle access.

David Boyd, public affairs specialist for the BLM’s Northwest Colorado District, said the goal is to inventory the many routes and trails within the landscape in the process of designating which should stay open, limited or closed.

“These areas we’re looking at are already getting a lot of use,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure we have a good range of possibilities before we go into the more detailed and an environmental assessment.”

According to documentation in the management plan — available for the public online at http://bit.ly/2aLnDKx — federal BLM property includes 1,151,100 acres in Rio Blanco County, 232,700 acres in Moffat County and 74,300 in Garfield County for a total 1,458,100 acres.

In its entirety, the planning area includes sections overseen by federal agencies — Dinosaur National Monument and White River National Forest — as well as state organizations, such as Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado State Parks and Colorado State Land Board.

A total 705,200 acres of private land across the three counties and 200 acres of county-owned land in Rio Blanco are also included in the planning area for a total 2,675,600 acres.

Alternative plans currently vary in the kinds of actions that might be taken, ranging from no changes to current area management to a more complex determination of designated routes.

BLM also will host two public open house meetings about preliminary alternatives for OHV open areas, the first of which is 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 30 in Meeker at the Public Library, 490 Main St.. Another will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 31 at Rangely’s Western Rio Blanco Metropolitan Recreation Center, 611 S. Stanolind Ave.

Comments are advised to be submitted by Sept. 30, 2016 and can be emailed to blm_co_wrfo_tmp@blm.gov or mailed to Heather Sauls, BLM White River Field Office, 220 East Market St., Meeker, CO 81641.

Following the comment period, area designations will continue to be worked out through 2017.

As a staff representative for the Colorado Northwestern Community College Four-Wheelers Club and rock crawl group, Craig’s David May said he is intrigued to find out more about the travel plan.

“We are definitely interested in these trails down around White River area and Rangely Rock Crawl Park and those out in Rio Blanco County,” he said. “We’ll try to attend as many of these sessions as we can.”

Boyd said the greater the amount of input, the better.

“We’re hoping by getting out there with the public and the different interests, we can look at some of our challenges and get some ideas to carry forward,” Boyd said. “We’re not looking to have the solution the day of these meetings, but we want to know what the public thinks. It’s a lot easier having these conversations on the ground than looking at a map.”

For more information, call the White River Field Office at 970-878-3800.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.