- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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May 27

The Telegraph of Macon on health care:

No matter your opinion of President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, it has become increasingly clear, as Congress attempts to untie the Gordian Knot, how difficult it must have been to wrangle all of the health care players, lawmakers and various lobbyists to support the ACA in the first place.

After running into a brick wall of competing interests within the Republican Party’s own ranks, House leaders gave up on an earlier attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare in March after the Congressional Budget Office scored the proposal and said it would leave 24 million Americans without insurance within a decade. The House returned for another bite of the apple earlier this month and approved and sent it on to the Senate before the CBO scored it. The results of that scoring were released last Wednesday.

The CBO report is not pretty. The House bill would leave 14 million more Americans uninsured next year than under the ACA. The House plan would reduce Medicaid spending by $834 billion. In a decade, 23 million more Americans would be added to the list of uninsured. In 2026, the number of uninsured according to the CBO, would be about the same as before the ACA was implemented. The CBO also reported that the proposal would reduce the deficit by $119 billion over a decade.

Most Americans could care less about what goes on in Washington, D.C. What are the practical impacts of this proposal? Medicaid, in its present form is insufficient. It doesn’t pay enough now for the services rendered. Right now, people who did qualify for Medicaid are no longer eligible because requirements have changed. The result? More people are sick and they are getting sicker, sooner.

And where do the uninsured go when they get sick? Your friendly neighborhood hospital. Hospitals have to care for every person who presents at their doors, and if the past is any indicator, those without insurance present at the facilities most expensive entrances: the emergency rooms. And those without insurance arrive there sicker because they haven’t received regular care.

There was a time when hospitals could cost shift - charge paying patients and those with good insurance plans more for procedures to help defray the cost of the uninsured and to cover the medigap. Those days are gone. Insurance companies have played hard ball with providers to get the best prices and to improve their bottom lines. Hospitals are already operating on razor-thin margins.

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, 21 hospitals closed in 2016, including North Georgia Medical Center in Ellijay. Five have declared bankruptcy this year. One year ago, Washington County Regional Medical Center in Sandersville was on the verge of shutting its doors. Voters approved borrowing $15 million to keep the facility open.

The House health care proposal now sits in the Senate and a working group there has basically said they are ignoring it and drafting their own bill. Why? The House bill has clearly identified winners - young, healthy and wealthy - and losers, those on Medicaid, children, the disabled, poor, sick and older Americans.

Add to that list, something the CBO recognized. The House bill would destabilize the health-care system. An amendment that was added would turn some of the responsibilities for what’s covered over to states. Using waivers, some states could allow offering insurance plans that cover next to nothing as was the case before Obamacare, or plans that are clearly unaffordable, allowing lawmakers to crow that they made insurance available to everyone.

Obamacare clearly needs fixing. It is far from perfect, but it has taken a huge step toward fulfilling its promise. If lawmakers are sincere in their efforts to provide health insurance to many Americans who would clearly be left out in the cold if this House proposal were ever to see the light of day, they will fix Obamacare, re-brand it, claim credit and live to fight another day. If they don’t, the Gordian Knot they are attempting to unravel could land around their necks with the electorate pulling the ends ever tighter.

Online: http://www.macon.com/

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May 30

Savannah Morning News on Gregg Allman’s death:

Fans of Southern rock music are rightly mourning the passing of Gregg Allman, who died last Saturday at his home near Savannah. The Allman Brothers Band singer and organist was 69.

Gregg Allman, along with his older brother, the famed guitarist Duane Allman, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1971, changed music in this part of the country by fusing country blues with what has been called San Francisco-style extended improvisation. Their sound became a template for countless future bands. Many a young Southern rocker cut his teeth on the Allman Brothers’ sound. But it’s impossible to sugar-coat the rough stuff: the trip to the top was no cakewalk for Gregg Allman and his bandmates - it was marred by death, tragedy, drugs, despair and betrayal.

But there was no doubting that Gregg Allman had a rare gift - he was blessed by one of rock’s most iconic voices. His was the driving force behind Southern rock classics such as “Midnight Rider,” ”Statesboro Blues,” ”Whipping Post,” and “It’s Not My Cross To Bear,” among others. He was a virtuoso on the Hammond B-3 organ. Writing in Rolling Stone, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons said that Allman’s singing and keyboard playing displayed “a dark richness, a soulfulness that added one more color to the Allmans’ rainbow.”

It’s a loss to American music that this color has been extinguished.

In his 2012 memoir, “My Cross to Bear,” Allman reflected on his life and career:

“Music is my life’s blood. I love music, I love to play good music, and I love to play music for people who appreciate it. And when it’s all said and done, I’ll go to my grave and my brother will greet me, saying, “Nice work, little brother - you did all right.

“I must have said this a million times, but if I died today, I have had me a blast.”

Gregg Allman was no one’s role model and in large part, he had been in failing health for some time, because of his own hard-living lifestyle. Yet he did his best to keep hope alive and to maintain his privacy. There was nothing wrong with his heart. He apparently wanted to continue to play music until he was flat worn out.

He played his last concert in October, but health problems forced him to cancel other shows. In March this year, he cancelled performances scheduled for the rest of 2017.

Gregg Allman is expected to be buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, alongside his late brother Duane. The Allman Brothers Band got its start in Macon nearly five decades ago with the then-fledgling Capricorn Records label. They would go on to make five platinum and 11 gold-selling albums.

While Gregg Allman was a star with a giant-sized talent, he was known for being humble and having no pretensions. He was a regular guy who made time for people. In some ways, he may have been a product of his upbringing, which was chronicled in his memoir. In it, he talked about how his father was killed and he and his brother were sent to a tough military school in Tennessee where they honed their rebellious streaks. As the Allman Brothers Band gained fame and fortune, Gregg Allman also honestly and painfully wrote about the tragedies that often accompany such success - excessive drug use and multiple marriages.

It’s interesting that one of Gregg Allman’s first paying jobs was that of a newspaper boy. In fact, as a child, he saved up the money from his newspaper route and bought a Silvertone guitar from Sears, which his older brother Duane soon appropriated.

The Allmans were racial pioneers of sorts in the South. At one point, while living in Daytona Beach, Fla., Duane Allman talked his brother into joining a racially integrated band called the House Rockers.

Gregg Allman graduated high school in 1965. However, he wasn’t much of a student. As he admitted at one point, “Between the women and the music, school wasn’t a priority anymore.”

But his passion for music was unmatched. He received a total of nine Grammy nominations, including seven with the Allman Brothers Band. His lone win came for 1995 for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for the band’s live recording the classic track “Jessica.” The Allman Brothers Band’s “Live At Fillmore East,” is regarded by many critics as one of the greatest live albums in rock history.

But perhaps his greatest personal achievement was beating his addictions to alcohol and drugs in the mid-1990s. He said that after getting sober at the age of 50, he felt “brand new,” proving that it’s never too soon or too late to begin cleaning up one’s life.

In a 2011 interview with this newspaper, Gregg Allman professed his love for Savannah: “I love Savannah. I love where I live and I also love the people. I hope I take my last breath here.”

Many Savannahians returned this love and today, they mourn the passing of this iconic singer and songwriter. His many of them will anxiously await the release of what will be his final album, “Southern Blood,” later this year.

Online: http://savannahnow.com/

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June 5

The Brunswick News on the Coastal Georgia Greenway:

A new regional director for the East Coast Greenway project is on the job and is already showing he takes his duties seriously.

Brent Buice, the man on the job, rode his bike through Brunswick last week with Coastal Georgia Greenway director Jo Claire Hickson. Both were complimentary of the city’s efforts to complete portions of the East Coast Greenway through its jurisdiction.

The greenway is a massive trail project initiated in 1991 that, when completed, will offer a continuous trail from the Northeast all the way down through Florida. The Coastal Georgia portion is coming together in some areas, like in Woodbine and Camden County for instance, but is sluggish in other areas, such as in portions of Glynn County.

As Hickson and Buice noted last Wednesday in a meeting with city officials, the portion nearing completion along U.S. Highway 17 from the Sidney Lanier Bridge to Gloucester Street is a step in the right direction.

The paved path winds its way along U.S. 17 and connects to existing sidewalks that stretch north to the city limits. Beyond that, however, trail seekers are left wanting.

Much of the Glynn County portion is still waiting to see any real action. The county commission had an opportunity in April to enter partnership with the PATHS Foundation to create a master trails plan for the mainland. The commission chose not to pursue it. But the commission did officially offer its support for the project.

So while the city of Brunswick appears to be fully on board and making headway on its portion, the county seems only willing to provide verbal support.

Ben Slade, a man who knows how to get things like this done and who has been advocate for the greenway for years, reiterated last week that a master plan is the best next step to see the Coastal Georgia Greenway become a reality. Having such a plan could attract several other foundations with cycling interests that could help the entire Coastal Georgia project, Slade noted.

We realize the money to complete a true greenway trail will not grow on the trees along the route. It is a big project that will require a coordinated effort with the Georgia Department of Transportation and each county and city along the way jumping on board, along with some financial help.

This is why it is time to take Slade’s suggestion and create a master plan so everyone has a clear vision for how to get the job done. Not only will potential funding options open up with a comprehensive plan, it will also be clear where work is needed and what each county and municipality needs to do.

Even without the plan, folks like Robert Muller II, a local real estate broker, have shown interest in volunteering his services to help the project.

We hope Buice’s arrival, Slade’s dedication and more volunteers like Muller can come together to make this trail the boon for our community we know it can be.

Online: http://goldenisles.news/

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