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Justice Scalia speaking to House members on the Constitution; Blue Shield's proposed premium increases; the future of education in California

January 10, 2011

Sense of the court

Re "Scalia's right to speak," Editorial, Jan. 6.

Yes, naively I used to think that Supreme Court justices were above the fray, very intelligent, unbiased, apolitical and even untouchable, if you will. But after decisions such as stopping the 2000 presidential election vote count and the opening wide of corporate political contributions by the Citizens United case, I harbor no misconceptions as to the aloofness of Supreme Court justices. They're right down there with the rest of us.

So don't be surprised if one of them accepts an invitation from a far-right Republican political activist.

Allan Orth

Fallbrook

Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann's request to Justice Antonin Scalia to educate members of Congress about the Constitution is a very good idea.

I concur with your editorial that it is entirely proper for Scalia to do so. He is a "learned and provocative legal thinker."

However, presenting only Scalia's views on constitutional issues and not the views of, say, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, would result in an exercise of indoctrination and not education for the members of Congress who attend.

Michael P. Newman

West Covina

Blue Shield's numbers game

Re "Insurer plans rate hikes up to 59%," Jan. 6

If you really want to know why Blue Shield wants to jack up its rates, ask House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), or you could ask Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who wants to eliminate Social Security and Medicare. Both got generous campaign contributions from Blue Shield, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Blue Shield not only needs to pay off past political campaign contributions, but it also plans to bankroll the next election. So we can expect Blue Shield to continue to seek to increase its rates.

We have some good news. Our new insurance commissioner, Dave Jones, pledged to combat the sort of price-gouging that Blue Shield is trying to get away with. That's one reason I voted a straight Democratic ticket.

William Joseph Miller

Los Angeles

Blue Shield has been steadily raising its premiums beginning with last year — before "Obamacare," because it was hedging its bets, not knowing what Obamacare would mandate; and after Obamacare, because now it has to pay for all the mandates; and now again, because it has redone the math and is coming up short.

My son's premiums went from $130 to $216 a month in less than one year. Because he is young and healthy, he is being punished — his premiums have to cover the cost of the mandates.

I want my vote back.

Stephany Yablow

North Hollywood

Insurance companies are really scrabbling for reasons to justify their rate increases. They want to blame hospitals and doctors. But the most important reason that was mentioned for justifying the rate increases now is that insurance companies are trying to protect their profits.

Although healthcare reform has provided some basic consumer protections, does that justify rate hikes of up to 59%?

The law will also require insurers to spend 80% or 85% of premium dollars on medical services. Again, does this justify a 59% rate hike?

Perhaps these are some of the real reasons insurance companies are raising their premiums — so their almighty profits are protected.

Joan Hardie

Glendale

Your article includes an illustration of an actual letter from Blue Shield noting that costs for hospitals in 2010 increased by nearly 15%, costs of prescription drugs increased by 12% and costs for physicians rose by 9%.

Then it socks the recipient with a 56.6% premium increase.

The most that can be justified is a 15% increase based on Blue Shield's own numbers. There is no mathematical justification for a 56.6% premium hike based on Blue Shield's increased costs.

Robert L. Stein

Irvine

The rate hikes are daggers that go right into the heart of the frail economic recovery.

Car dealers, home builders, restaurants and clothing stores will all suffer because consumer spending that should have gone to them will go to pay for health insurance premium increases.

Congress' failure to fund the healthcare reform law would only make matters worse.

John F. Rossmann

Tustin

College isn't for everyone

Re "One word for California: education," Opinion, Jan. 3

Does state Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg expect tow-truck operators, plumbers and waitresses to have bachelor's degrees?

College may not be a path that will benefit every child. The financial burden of supporting children through college may overwhelm families.

High schools should provide classes such as auto shop, construction and business, all areas that employ a large proportion of our population.

Those youngsters who are candidates for successful college educations will always find a way to reach their goals. Let the rest of them find satisfaction in helping California's economy and themselves in a different, but not lesser, way.

Char Salkin

San Clemente

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