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Readers' letters discuss healthcare costs, the climate crisis and gun rights.

Congress, protect us from surprise medical bills

Welcoming a new child into the world is a wonderful thing and one that should not have to come with exorbitant medical costs.

I am a mother of two and my son was born two years after my daughter with the same doctor, the same health insurance at the same hospital. Despite the identical circumstances, I received a bill after the birth for $2,500 worth of out-of-network charges. For a single-income household, this was a surprising and difficult debt to burden, and I know that our experience happens across this country every day.

With Congress taking up the issue of surprise medical bills, I hope our leaders in Washington, D.C., will hold insurance companies accountable for their role in this problem. Often, patients get unexpected bills because insurers refuse to reimburse out-of-network hospitals or doctors for emergency care where patients may not have the flexibility to find an in-network provider. When insurance companies refuse to reimburse those expenses, patients are left with the tab.

Of course, the insurance companies are pushing solutions that will maximize their profits by regulating what providers charge for services. Experts are saying that if this happens, insurance networks will simply get smaller, and doctors will go out of business, making important (and sometimes life-saving) medical care less available. The solution to protecting new mothers and other patients from surprise medical bills should not result in even more limited care. Congress needs to act, but please act in the right way.

Megan Brown, Lake Oswego

Cheaper, safer nuclear power is part of climate solution

In the Aug. 28, 2019, Opinion section, Antonio Baptista closes with a plea to adopt lifestyles that do not require a disproportionate net carbon footprint. The latter is happening. It is estimated the U.S. use of petroleum will be reduced by 1 million barrels per day by 2023. And the downward trend will continue.

The U.S. auto manufacturers are frantically shifting to EVs (electric vehicles). Some authorities estimate the end of U.S. manufacturing of fossil fuel autos will be 2030 — only 11 years away.

Refer to Antonio Baptista's commentary on climate change.

Since the best renewable energy sites are taken, sourcing all that energy for EVs is a challenge. That is why nuclear electrical generation is getting more attention.

Currently, the United States' 98 active nuclear reactors supply 19% of the nation's total electrical energy.

Fortunately, billions of dollars in private funding and converging technologies are poised to usher in a new era of safe, clean and abundant nuclear energy.

Conventional reactors use heat generation from the atomic chain reaction to turn water into steam. The nuclear industry seems largely going in the direction of heating mineral salts with thorium. Thorium is more abundant and far cheaper than uranium. Thorium heats molten salt to produce a lava that is significantly safer than steam for power generation. And thorium is not suitable for weaponry, as is uranium.

Companies like Bill Gates' Terra Power stand at the cutting edge of these technologies. Bill Gates is telling lawmakers he personally would invest $1 billion and raise $1 billion more in private capital to go along with federal funds for a pilot of his never-before-used technology. Westinghouse and Nu Scale have both received $50 million in venture funding and are using miniature versions of molten salt thorium reactors.

Worldwide, there are more than 50 reactors under construction. China plans to add 150 new nuclear reactors, and about 300 more are proposed. These should have dramatic reduction in China's infamous huge carbon footprint.

Arthur Crino, Tigard

To save the world, we have to change it

I was born on June 27, 1989. Almost exactly one year earlier, James Hansen, a top NASA scientist, told a United States Senate committee, "The greenhouse effect has been detected and is changing our climate now."

My government has had my entire life to address this issue, and time and time again, they have chosen profits for the fossil fuel industry over my generation's future.

Now, at midnight on the climate clock, we are left with only two choices: climate catastrophe or revolution. Luckily, our nation is ripe for the latter. We have not seen such massive inequality since the Gilded Age, an injustice that could not be sustained without the grotesque and systematic practices of racism, sexism, classism, transphobia and homophobia that so effectively serve to divide us.

The climate movement is no longer stacked with environmentalists concerned solely with the preservation of the natural world, accessible only to those with Subarus, National Parks passes and expensive outdoor gear. We are a diverse coalition of farmers, teachers, business owners, students, parents, artists and workers dedicated not only to the preservation of a livable planet, but to radically orienting society towards justice and liberation.

Climate change does not have to be only a crisis. It can be an opportunity for us to unite behind the creation of a world we actually want to live in. Join us for a general strike on Sept. 20 at 10:30 a.m. Head to climatestrikeoregon.org for more details.

Suzanna Kassouf, Portland

States can set their own rules for gun ownership

The new media, along with some biased political report, speak of "mass shootings" as a political reason to ban firearms from the citizens of the United States. They speak of "assault rifles" as a military weapon which should not be in the hands of the population at large.

The truth is that AR as a label is the name of the original designer in the 1950s, which was "Armalite," but in the 1980s, it was a political label that changed it to "assault."

As a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Army, who first was issued an M1 rifle, the term of "assault gun" or "rifle" was not part of the vocabulary.

The Second Amendment of the Constitution guarantees that the States can have an "organized militia," and also that every citizen was part of the "unorganized militia", which was to be an "armed citizen." President George Washington defined that as being every male citizen between the age of 17 and 45 was to be armed at all times.

Our Constitution prohibits the federal government from making laws that are unconstitutional, which includes the armed citizen. However, as any student of government can affirm, the states do have the right to regulate both the organized militia and the armed citizen, which any gun-owner who travel across the U.S. can recognize, such as in New York which makes it almost impossible to own a handgun, but in Oregon we can have a concealed weapon permit issued by the county.

The hard fact is, the United States Congress has no right to regulate gun ownership, but states do hold that right.

Bill Blankinship, Hillsboro


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