- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

April 7

American Press, Lake Charles, La., on thinking safety when boating:

Spring is here and boating enthusiasts will be taking to Louisiana waterways in increasing numbers. Boating is a fun family activity as long as all the safety rules are kept in mind when on the water.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife Fisheries (LDWF) takes boating safety and enforcement of the laws governing the waterways quite seriously.

Learn or refresh your memory about boating safety, as well as the rules and regulations of this state before launching your boat. LDWF offers free boating courses statewide, and you can review boating a personal flotation device (PFD) regulations and laws at www.wlf.louisiana.gov/boating.

Each vessel should have enough PFDs on board for all occupants and a sober operator. LDWF regulations state that anyone 16 years of age and younger must wear a PFD while underway in vessels less than 26 foot long.

Alcohol consumption impairs a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. Alcohol also increases fatigue and susceptibility to hypothermia. Intensifying the effects of alcohol are sun, wind, noise, vibration and movement, which are all common to boating activities.

The penalties for DWI on the water are the same as on the road. Anyone cited for a DWI on the water or on the road will lose his or her driver’s license and boating privileges for the specified time ordered by the judge in the case. Also, each offense of operating a vehicle or vessel while intoxicated counts toward the total number of DWI crimes whether they happened on the water or road.

In addition, the American Boating Association encourages every boater to be serious about boating safety, starting with the proper kind and amount of boater training. Remember, a boating mishap or fatality often involves innocent people who share in none of the blame, but all of the consequence. As a responsible boater, the life you save may very well be someone else’s.

The Lake Charles Sail and Power Squadron holds a one-day Safe Boating Class nearly monthly on Saturday’s from 7:45 a.m.-3 p.m. Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1984, must take the class before operating a boat over 10 horsepower. For more information on the Power Squadron Safe boating classes, 474-0730.

For loads of safety tips and information, check out the ABA’s safety page at www.americanboating.org/safety.asp.

Louisiana is truly a “sportsman’s paradise” for boaters, but only if they respect the waterways, obey the laws and always think safety.




April 8

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La., on the Mississippi River:

As spring weather returned to central and northern Louisiana 150 years ago, the Union Army launched its last major offensive in the West.

The goal was to take Shreveport and cut off supplies from Texas for the Confederate forces. The Mississippi River was already in Union hands, but the Red River remained, and a large army under Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks fumbled the chance to seize it.

The set of battles at Pleasant Hill and Mansfield marked the last large engagements in Louisiana during the war.

The aggressive attacks of forces under Gen. Richard Taylor, a son of a U.S. president, broke the morale of the federal forces, winning a hard-fought strategic victory for the Confederates. The South would live on in the Red River valley until the end of the Confederacy the next year.

The sesquicentennial of the Civil War is nearing its end next year, but it is important to remember not only the lessons of the conflict but the extraordinary sacrifices of both sides.




April 6

The News-Star, Monroe, La., on balance billing:

Most of us who’ve endured any major illness or significant medical procedure have gotten another surprise while we’re on the mend: an unexpected bill.

These bills are called “balance billing.” Generally, most physicians and hospitals have contracts with insurance companies that require them to accept the insurance’s “in-network” reimbursement as full payment.

But many emergency medical personnel or their companies, as well as many anesthesiologists, pathologists and radiologists, don’t have contracts with insurers. So in addition to whatever the insurance company pays, nothing prevents them from billing the balance to the consumer.

Three Louisiana lawmakers - Reps. Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro; Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, and Sen. David Heitmeier, D-New Orleans - have filed bills to correct this issue.

Among the changes the bills would require: Medical emergency providers to accept either the in-network reimbursement or bill the patient, but not both; prevent the medical providers from suing the patient for the balance; or reduce the percentage of the amount of the balance the patient could be billed.

Health insurance policies today require considerable due diligence on the part of the consumer. We must make sure we’re following the rules of our network, getting pre-clearance or referrals and attending to many other details that have made managing your health more complex.

Surprise bills for out-of-network services you did not know you were going to incur, such as for medical transportation, anesthesia, radiology or pathology, should somehow be regulated or monitored. For many families, these types of surprises can force them into serious financial problems and even bankruptcy.

No one expects these services to be provided gratis, but there should be upfront notification of what the charge will be if the consumer is expected to pay what the insurance company will not. And if the consumer has the choice of an in-network provider for these medical services, he should be able to make that choice.

There’s a lot of money at stake with these proposed bills and they already face opposition from physician and hospital lobbies.

But all parties should be concerned about taking financial advantage of consumers at a vulnerable time, and the Legislature should take this opportunity to consider this matter.



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