Where's the oversight from local officials?

To the editor:

I just finished reading the Review-Journal story about the Bali Hai Golf Club ("Taxpayers get shortchanged," Monday).

God help us.

Brings back memories of other taxpayer land that McCarran International Airport sold that was flipped, sometimes within hours, at a huge profit for the person who bought it.

It appears that our elected officials have no interest in representing the people who elect them.

Rick Smith

Las Vegas

Health insurance

To the editor:

Columnist Vin Suprynowicz's complaint that ObamaCare forces insurance companies to accept clients with pre-existing conditions and that such a requirement invites actuarial disaster is, of course, correct. But -- perhaps unwittingly -- his argument also points to why insurance companies shouldn't be in the business of insuring "health" at all.

The insurance model of risk assessment for profit doesn't apply to health.

We ordinarily insure ourselves against adversities that probably won't happen in our lifetime. Houses don't usually burn down, so we spread the risk over millions of homeowners. If yours does go up in flames, a large pool assures it's covered. We do the same for cars.

If houses we own keep burning down or we drive in such a way that our car repeatedly crashes, insurance companies will protect themselves by raising rates or canceling coverage altogether. This makes perfect sense.

But nothing of the sort happens with health, no matter how much stripping and crimping we do to make it fit. Given enough time, everyone is going to die, and the chances are quite good that they will get sick before they do. Given this actuarial certainty, insurance companies act the way the insurance model says they should act -- reducing their exposure by raising rates or throwing high-risk policy holders (typically older people) out of the pool.

Now we are at the heart of the debate and controversy. Insurance companies seek to cover young, healthy policy holders who we might analogize to good drivers, and then raise premiums or cancel coverage as people's chances of getting sick increase. Because this process is statistically related to age, we find ourselves face-to-face with the grim truth that as people get older, insurance companies will find their presence more and more problematic.

So what's the solution? We need to confront the question Americans have never been willing to answer: Is health care a right or a privilege? If it is a right, who's going to pay for it? If it is a privilege, how are we going to live with the reality of citizens living or dying based on how much money they have?

The very idea of insurance has no answers to these questions because health isn't an insurable commodity like a house or a car. Conflating these ideas and continuing to argue over what role insurance companies will have in health care guarantees that our current malaise will continue.

Charles Edgley

Las Vegas

Poker game

To the editor:

Saturday's story, "Reid deals online poker plan," was a welcome headline to Sen. Harry Reid's poker-playing constituents. Unfortunately, that fact was nowhere to be found in the Review-Journal article that followed it. Instead, the implication was that Sen. Reid's newfound support of online poker is solely a response to the interests of the large casino corporations.

As a Reid supporter, constituent and an online poker player, I would like to think that my repeated letters urging Sen. Reid to support the legalization of online poker, along with those of many other "small" backers, actually played some notable role in helping to end the senator's opposition to online poker.

Individual poker players, like the major casinos, may disagree about "any number of technical or language issues" in the draft bill, but, in general, it is good for us that both Sen. Reid and Nevada's casino corporations are now supporting the legalization of online poker. In a state where very few residents are more than a few miles from a live, legal poker game 24/7, giving residents the option to play online poker, legally, in the comfort of their homes, should not be viewed as a huge, societally destructive step.

In fact, Sen. Reid's support of online poker makes his overall position on gaming more consistent than it was when he was opposed to online poker.

The senator's staffers and supporters of legalization are not merely "touting" these benefits while pursuing the nefarious interests of the big casinos. They are taking significant steps toward bringing our business, legal and regulatory structures in line with the reality of a massive online poker industry.

Thomas Sanduski

Las Vegas

Off the job

To the editor:

I was disappointed that a recent Business section report that cutting off jobless benefits "would sting" gave no mention or credit to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The goofy premise that unemployment benefits drive growth was first put forward by Ms. Pelosi in almost the exact words the article used.

The natural extension of this premise, of course, is that we should find ways to increase unemployment and then increase the weekly benefit and the number of weeks that we extend benefits. Who knows? That might drive GDP growth into double digits.

There is research available now that indicates extending unemployment benefits will increase -- you guessed it -- unemployment.

John B. Alvord

Las Vegas