Friday, April 8, 2011

(P)Raising Arizona

Finally, something from Arizona I agree with (at least at first blush). Now, I don’t know all the intricacies of Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposal, but on the surface it seems worthy of discussion.

Essentially, Gov. Brewer wants to impose a $50 annual fee on Medicaid recipients who are obese or smokers if they fail to follow their doctor’s regimens that presumably would help them lose weight or kick the habit. The fee would apply to non-disabled adults who are either childless or whose children are at least 19.

For sure the proposal would need refinement, so, for example, a person overweight because of a thyroid condition would not be hit with the fee. But as a practical matter, getting smokers and the obese to pay their fair share of the burgeoning health care cost is a plus. We’re all paying higher medical premiums because we are carrying some of the burden smokers and heavyweights impose on the medical system. Private enterprise has recognized this—insurance companies charge different rates if you’re a non-smoker. Some private employers carry a separate medical coverage option for non-smokers.

It’s no secret Gov. Brewer is not the most friendly person when it comes to entitlement programs. She’d prefer to do away completely with Medicaid. But if the $50 fee prompts people to stop smoking or lose weight, it might produce a positive outcome.

Of course, an objective look at her proposal might also raise an interesting question—since Republicans always trumpet the need to take government out of our personal lives, how could a GOP governor be in favor of imposing a fee based on personal behavior? I guess it’s not hypocritical when the GOP does it.

Just when I was about to give Arizona a favorable, though not passing grade, it reinforced the stereotype that its elected officials are just plain crazy. And back to their keep-government-out-of-our-lives mode. The Republican-controlled Arizona House has passed legislation allowing guns, even concealed guns, to be carried on university and college campuses, all in the name of providing a means of defense in the case of a shooting. The governor has not indicated whether she will sign the bill. I’m betting she will.

Making guns permissible on campus is catching on like wild fire across GOP territory. Similar legislation is being considered in Texas, Tennessee, Michigan, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Nebraska, Mississippi and Florida. Utah already permits it. Given the degree of drinking college students do, I am not thrilled with the mixture of alcohol and gunpowder. It’s a recipe for disaster, sooner or later.

It also gives parents another factor to consider when evaluating higher education options. Will the right to bear arms on campus be a positive or negative influence on their choice? There are some really good schools in those states. I’m glad I’m the father of college graduates and don’t have to confront this issue.

While we’re on the subject of guns, two groups, The Second Amendment Foundation and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, filed a federal lawsuit against New York City this week because they say the cost to own a firearm in Gotham is too high, an “arbitrary financial constraint” to gun ownership. It costs $340 for an application and $94.25 to obtain a fingerprint check.

The fees seem reasonable to me, but to be honest, I think Chris Rock has a better suggestion. To cut down on random shootings, Rock proposes that each bullet cost $5,000. Too bad he’s a comedian so his idea won’t be seriously considered.

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