Is this who we are?
Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Who are we?
We ask because of what happened Saturday in El Paso, where 22 people were killed — and, several hours later, in Dayton, Ohio, where nine were killed.
We ask because the mayor of El Paso, Dee Margo, said: This is not who we are. (We’re paraphrasing.)
He said it with conviction. And he’s right.
El Paso is a peaceful, neighborly city. El Pasoans live their lives harmoniously, interdependent with the residents of Juarez, the city on the other side of the border. It’s how El Paso and Juarez have been for 350 years, Margo said. ...
More to the point, the gunman didn’t come from El Paso, or from the other side of the border. He came all the way from Allen, 659.2 miles to the east-northeast via interstate, according to Google Maps.
What happened in El Paso is as unlike El Paso as what happened inside a church at Sutherland Springs — 26 people shot dead — was unlike that church congregation, and what happened at a school in Santa Fe, 10 people killed, was unlike that group of students and faculty.
The killers in those other two shootings had a direct connection to their targets. The El Paso killer has no known connection to El Paso — proving Margo’s point that this is not who El Paso is. It’s somebody else. Somebody full of hate — hate that was encouraged. Hate that has no place in El Paso. ...
Who are we? ...
We can start by asking Gov. Greg Abbott who he is, who he’d like to be and how he’d like to be remembered. He has been governor during all of these shootings. Is that how he wants to be remembered?
Abbott, to his credit, steps up during crises, going to disaster scenes sometimes when they still aren’t safe. He shows compassion, but struggles to acknowledge gun violence is hurting our state.
Abbott is the governor who went to a shooting range to sign a bill lowering the fee for concealed carry permits. During this stunt, he shot a few rounds and said he’d save the bullet-riddled target as a message to news reporters. What will Abbott do, in the aftermath of El Paso, to make us forget he is that guy? ...
We all should want to be more like El Paso, as fine an example of peace and harmony as there is — a peace and harmony that it took an outsider to disrupt. And we must find effective solutions that will prevent similar tragedies. That’s who we need to be.
New law falls short
It sounded like a big victory for Texas patients: a new state law protects them from sticker shock if they receive an unexpected medical bill from a doctor who wasn’t in their insurance provider network.
But the victory wasn’t as big as it seemed.
The law signed last month by Gov. Greg Abbott applies only to Texans who buy insurance policies regulated by the Texas Department of Insurance. Left out is the 40% of the Texas insurance market, including employee benefits programs self-funded by large companies, regulated by the federal government through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
Texas’ new law takes effect in September. It was authored by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, who has been trying to protect patients from surprise medical bills for 10 years. It was Hancock’s 2009 bill that created a mediation process to settle billing disputes between medical providers and patients whose insurance companies wouldn’t cover out-of-network charges.
Mediation since 2015 has saved Texans more than $42 million in health care costs not paid by their insurers, including $8 million last year alone, according to the insurance department. But despite outreach efforts, many patients never knew they were eligible for mediation. They instead scraped up the cash to pay any balance owed after their insurance company kicked in its obligated share.
That shouldn’t happen as often under the new law, which takes consumers out of the equation by replacing mediation between the patient and insurer with what Hancock calls “baseball arbitration,” where an intermediary with medical billing expertise settles the dispute. ...
A companion bill that would have made arbitration available to self-funded insurance plans was abandoned during the last legislative session. Hancock explained that participation would have been voluntary since those plans follow ERISA rules instead of TDI regulations. “Hopefully, we will see Congress address the issue,” he said.
That may not happen. Hospitals are opposing a bill in the U.S. Senate they say amounts to price-setting. ...