Letters to the Editor for Nov. 6, 2012

Speak up at coal hearings

As you know, the forecast is to have 24 coal trains rumble through Gorge communities. These slow moving trains are each 1.5 miles long. They will degrade life for a million people all along the route from Montana to Camas and from Camas to the proposed terminal near Bellingham.

That’s why 2,000 people packed the coal export hearings in Bellingham on Oct. 20.

And they will get only 9 of those trains per day.

The Army Corps of Engineers is conducting public hearings on coal exports in six other cities, including Vancouver. Our hearing will be in Gaiser Hall of Clark College beginning at 4 p.m. on Dec. 12. Please write that on your calendar and come. The meeting structure is informal, so you can drop in any time between 4 and 8 p.m.

Ask the hearings officers to weigh the jobs lost against the jobs gained. Jobs will be lost at waterfront development projects in dozens of communities.

If Washougal residents don’t want the fire trucks to wait for the trains to go by, we the local taxpayers have to pay for the overpasses. The railroads don’t need the overpasses.

Most climate scientists say that coal burning anywhere will lead to more extreme weather such as super storm Sandy. The economic suffering will dwarf the benefit of a few jobs.

Please remember the hearing on Dec. 12 and plan to attend.

Don Steinke, Vancouver

Take advantage of prescription program

From now until Dec. 7, millions of seniors and individuals with disabilities in Washington state have the opportunity to do something that can make a huge difference in their quality of life: save money on prescription medicines. In some cases, thousands of dollars.

That date is the start of the annual open enrollment period for the Medicare prescription drug benefit, also known as Part D. It is your opportunity to ensure your current health care plan still fits your needs.

In some cases, your medicines may have changed. In other cases, the plans change and what was a good coverage last year may not be this year.

Every year, seniors and those with disabilities who decide to update their plan find they can save significantly by switching to a better, more appropriate plan.

That’s why we have come together to call attention to open enrollment. As advocates for those with diabetes, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and other chronic conditions, we want to help our constituency with the challenges of receiving access to the affordable health care they need.

For those with these illnesses, new treatments and opportunities are available to live longer, healthier lives. And new breakthroughs offer hope for future cures and better treatment.

Those new innovations, however, must be available to those who need them. The Medicare prescription drug benefit has helped millions access those medicines, and recent changes have ensured that costs stay low.

This is one reason that surveys of those on Part D find that more than 90 percent of seniors and people with disabilities are happy with their plan and the program. If, however, you are not happy, open enrollment is an opportunity to find a plan that fits you better.

Even if you are happy, doing a checkup can help you find savings you didn’t realize existed.

Ironically, all of those choices can be daunting for some – how to decide what plan is best for you.

The best source of assistance is the Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance program. SHIBA’s trained volunteers will help you simplify the process and they are available at community centers across the state. You can find your local volunteer by calling 800-562-6900.

You can also visit Medicare.gov which has a simple tool to help find the best program for you. All you need is your Medicare card and a list of your medicines.

Whatever you choose, updating your plan is a great way to make sure that 2013 is healthy, whether you are managing a chronic illness or simply want to have health care coverage that ensures you are prepared.

It isn’t every day you get a chance to save money on health care. But that day is coming soon. Make sure you don’t miss out.

Johanna Lindsay, Arthritis Foundation

Laura Keller, American Diabetes Association

Jim Freeburg, Multiple Sclerosis Society

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