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Bariatric surgery

Insurers being short-sighted

I read with great interest the Missoulian's May 1 story regarding the bariatric surgery program at St. Patrick Hospital. As a candidate for this surgery myself, and as an acquaintance of several people who have already undergone this surgery with positive results, I believe it has an appropriate place in the management of morbid obesity.

I find it sad, however, that so many insurers do not cover bariatric surgery while continuing to pay out enormous sums to treat diseases associated with obesity. The public is constantly bombarded with messages from the medical community that being overweight creates a health risk that can lead to diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea and high blood pressure, all of which require long-term treatment that is neither simple nor inexpensive. Each of these diseases in turn has a myriad of effects, including blindness, stroke and congestive heart failure, that account for a tremendous expenditure of insurance dollars and result in reduced quality of life, and often reduced length of life, for the patient.

Certainly, maintaining a normal weight does not guarantee these diseases will not happen, nor do I believe that surgery is an "easy" answer. All surgeries have risks that must be considered along with the potential benefits if the procedure is to have value. But since research has already established that maintaining relatively normal weight significantly reduces the risks associated with many chronic diseases, it seems insurers would benefit in the long run to cover a surgery that in many cases results in a healthier and happier individual. To do otherwise seems short-sighted and contrary to the best interests of both insurer and insured.

Terry MacPheat,

703 W Hallmark Lane, Missoula

Salvage logging

Science doesn't support it

Once upon a time, it was widely believe the earth was flat. Similarly, years of Forest Service propaganda helped install the notion in citizens that our forests' main use should be timber. Hence it's not surprising the Missoulian reports that 89.5 percent believe it's important to salvage log areas burned in last summer's fires (Bitterrooters want action on burned land, April 28).

In 1995 a panel of scientists concluded, "There is little reason to believe that post-fire salvage logging has any positive ecological benefits … there is considerable evidence that persistent, significant adverse environmental impacts are likely to result from salvage logging." To date, the Forest Service has found nothing that disputes these scientists.

Still, Bitterroot National Forest officials promote salvage logging saying, "There is a need to manage fuels to reduce the intensity and extent of future fires." But their own assessment of post-fire conditions states, "There are not studies documenting a reduction in fire intensity in a stand that had previously burned and then been logged."

Perhaps Ravalli County residents believe salvage logging is important for economic reasons. That's understandable. But following decades of heavy-handed management, forest restoration opportunities - and therefore opportunities for employment - abound. The most important restoration needs existed before the fires. It would be senseless to again subsidize the same industry that caused the restoration needs in the first place. Instead, let's pay people to remove the excess roads the Forest Service admits they can't afford to maintain, that harm native trout streams and spoil our hunting opportunities. Let's employ folks to restore streamside areas degraded by logging and livestock grazing. Let's address the problem of noxious weeds. The Forest Service will have a tough job education the public about the scientific evidence against salvage logging. But first they have to face the truth themselves.

Jeff Juel,

822 Cooper St., No. 1, Missoula

President Bush

There goes the environment

Hopefully, most Americans will not mistake "President" Bush's oil industry agenda for an "energy plan" ("Critics, backers weigh Bush energy plan," May 14 Missoulian). People who believe that this administration has their best interests in mind, or will work to control prices for working families are living in a fantasy world.

What's happening now with the energy industries is reminiscent of the savings and loan debacle of the early Reagan years, when well-connected corporations and individuals stole billions of dollars from the tax-paying public. "President" Bush, "Vice President" Cheney and their oil industry cronies are essentially a bunch of Mafioso-style hooligans out to strong-arm some gigantic profits out of working Americans and transfer the money directly to wealthy corporations. Just look at the Bush tax plan if you need more proof.

Even worse than the economic fraud is the deadly environmental agenda. In case you hadn't noticed, global warming is a reality. It's here, it's now, and it's getting worse at a far faster rate than scientists had predicted even just five years ago. The Arctic ice cap is melting and glaciers are disappearing from the high mountain ranges. The proposed new coal and oil burning plants, the destruction of environmental regulations (not "relaxation" or "easing" as the corporate media euphemistically calls it), are certain climactic disaster. And nuclear power is definitely not a viable alternative, unless maybe we can store the wastes in a certain section of Washington, D.C.

I wonder about these greedy rogues who are playing so recklessly with their poisons. Don't they have children or grandchildren, too? Don't they want there to be a breathable atmosphere for them, or clean water to drink? The only thing I can figure is that Bush, Cheney, etc., are really some kind of toxic-breathing, scaly lizard-type of aliens that will get rid of their human disguises and take over the planet after they're done transforming it into a poisonous, blazing desert.

Aaron Coffin,

P.O. Box 7941, Missoula

Letters policy: The Missoulian welcomes and encourages letters to the editor on topics of general interest. Letters should be about 300 words or fewer. The Missoulian reserves the right to reject or edit letters for content and length. The Missoulian prints as many letters as possible. Letters must contain the writer's name, address and telephone number (phone numbers are for verification, not publication).

Mail to: Missoulian Letters, P.O. Box 8029, Missoula, MT 59807. Fax: 406-523-5294. E-mail: opinion@missoulian.com.

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