Ulysses Democratic Caucus Results
The Democratic Party held it’s caucus to nominate candidates for the election upcoming on November third. They nominated incumbent Republican Jim Meeker, so he will most likely continue as Highway Superintendent. They nominated Erica Naylor for Ulysses Town Clerk. There were no challengers to Lucia Tyler. We nominated her for Town Council person, so she will most likely keep that seat. That left one open board seat, and the only candidate was Kevin Romer, and we nominated him. That left the only contested seat, that needed to be voted on. Allen Carstensen, (that’s me) Roxanne Marino, and Chris Thomas were candidates. We spoke, and took questions, and voted. There were 121 votes cast. Chris Thomas got 32, Roxanne got 89. I removed my nomination just before the vote. Two people told me that I was being disrespectful of the process. Many more thanked me for what I did. Sorry if I offended anyone. I’m not really focused on the process. I’m much more focused on the issues. If I got my message about the EMS across to anyone, then I’m glad I did it. If I helped Roxanne win the nomination, then I think it was justified.
Congratulations to the Democratic nominees!
It’s important that we have a good turnout in November, to ensure that a last minute write in campaign by the Republicans can not work.
I recorded the meeting. I will soon have a link to the audio on my blogs at
I had written more than I could read in my alloted time. Here it is in full,
There are several very important issues facing our Town and Village Boards in the months ahead. The threat of serious environmental damage and health risks from the hydrofracturing gas drillers is high on the list, and citizens have an opportunity today to vote for the candidates that they feel are best equipped and inclined to protect Ulysses from this exploitation.
The privatization of our EMS service is a more urgent issue though. Chris Thomas is once again pushing the board toward hiring a third party billing company to send bills to every recipient of ambulatory care. This was a big issue last year. I was quite vocal in my opposition, and I was instrumental in bringing people to board meetings to voice their opposition. As a result, the Village held a public forum in order to gather input from the community to guide their decision on wether or not to go to billing. It was well attended and the guidance they were looking for was given very clearly. More than twice as many people spoke against billing as spoke for it. Of those speaking against billing, half were current or past members of the EMS or the Fire Department. No volunteers spoke in favor of billing.
I have two questions for the Village Board members that favor billing. What part of “NO” don’t you understand? And. Will you be having another public forum before going to billing so that we can tell you to leave our ambulance service alone.
Legally, this decision is in the hands of the Village Board, but Chris Thomas has said repeatedly, that they would not proceed without the consent of the Town Board, so it is imperative that we elect a Town Board that will help us tell them to leave our ambulance service alone.
It is possible that the Village could move quickly to billing, possibly before a newly elected Town Board takes office, and possibly without a public forum. Mayor Petrovic could stop this, and I urge you to talk to him.
So why am I so adamantly opposed to billing? A whole host of reasons. But mainly, I am afraid that if we go to billing, someone, someday soon, is going to not call 911 when they should call 911, because of a fear of the cost, and they, or their loved one, is going to die. Some will say that I am being hyperbolic, but I listened carefully to the volunteers that spoke at the public forum, and this is a very real possibility.( I recorded the forum. You can listen to it at my blog at trumansburg ambulance funding.blogspotcom.) I realize that our EMS is part of a system that includes the 911 operators and the dispatchers, and the hospitals, and we cannot tell citizens that all of it is free, but we do control wether or not our EMS will bill, and our EMS is likely to be the first contact that a citizen has with trained and equipped medical people in an emergency, and if they call for and accept the help, it could save lives, and that is why we formed the EMS 40 years ago.
Chris Thomas will tell you that he has learned of a municipality that is going to “insurance only billing” I asked him for the name of the municipality and the name of the billing company because this sounds interesting. He refused to give me the information. I filed a FOIA request at village hall, but have not gotten an answer. Chris claims that contract negotiations are taking place and that is why I can’t have the information. I’m a big fan of open government, and I don’t understand why I can’t talk to these people while contract negotiations are ongoing. I suspect that what this is, is nothing new. Chris used to talk of non aggressive billing. This means that everybody would get a bill regardless of wether or not they were insured, but the village would not have to hound those who don’t have insurance and can’t afford to pay, but if someone refuses help for fear of a bill, it may do them no good from the grave to know that had they lived, the Village would not have pursued collection.
I feel that our current single payer, fully taxpayer supported, non billing, largely volunteer, EMS is a wonderful example of how our entire health care system should be, and I would hate to see it corrupted by entering into business with a private for profit billing company, and a private for profit, health insurance industry, not because there is anything wrong with profit in general, but because there is something very wrong with profit in health insurance. Many of our representatives in Washington are fighting for a nonprofit public option, we lost our strongest fighter last week when Kennedy died. Let’s not dishonor his memory by allowing the Village Board to privatize our EMS. There is a bill in the Senate now that was written by Kennedy and Dodd, that would offer a strong public option and a mandate to ensure universal coverage. If this bill becomes law, this would impact our decisions here. We know that law governing insurance and health care is very much in flux in our federal and state legislatures. This would be a crazy time to consider going to billing here. Lets let this play out.
About 18% of Ulysses, and the rest of the area served by our EMS, has no health insurance. Some say that that many again are underinsured. That’s 1500 to 3000 people of the roughly 8000 in the district. These are the people that are most likely to fear the cost of help when they need it. These are our friends and neighbors. Are we willing to put them at risk to save a few tax dollars?
If we go to billing, we can shift some of the cost of our EMS, (which is rightfully our cost) off of our taxpayers, and onto society at large. When we bill insurance companies, we generate paperwork expenses, a cut for the billing company, and huge profits for insurance company CEO’s like David Hemsley of United Health, who has made 3/4s of a billion dollars in the last 5 years. Some proponents of billing seem to think that these private insurers are getting a free ride, that’s it not fair, and that the solution is to bill them. You don’t get it. They want you to bill them. They need you to bill them. If nobody billed them they’d go out of business. They need that bill, so that they can turn it around, add profit, and bill us back in the form of premiums.
There was a special Village Board meeting last Monday to discuss the “crisis” in funding the EMS. There was a good deal of talk about what they were calling a “paradigm shift” away from volunteerism. Apparently there has been a recent unwillingness among the EMS volunteers to sign up for shifts, and as a result, they have projected a 25% EMS budget increase for next year. They suggest that the district will need to spend $425,000 next year. $425,000 divided by the 8000 residents in the district = 53 dollars / resident / year. This is not a crisis. Let me tell you what a crisis is. The average family of four pays 13,000 dollars (including employer contribution) for health care today. That is estimated to double to 26,000 in 7 to 8 years if current trends continue. That’s a crisis. 18,000 people die each year in this country because they had no health insurance. That’s a crisis. If the Village board starts EMS billing, they will be contributing to the insane escalation of that cost. What we have right now requires the least possible amount of paperwork, and no bills to Medicare, or Medicaid, or private for profit companies. No third party billing company needs to get a cut, and there is no profit involved. It’s perfect.
I have good news. I’ve researched this “paradigm shift”, away from volunteerism. It doesn’t exist. On April 21, this year, President Barack Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act which reauthorizes and expands national service programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency created in 1993. They have a website Serve.gov. You can search for volunteer opportunities, and apply for grants, and they have statistics that prove that volunteerism is increasing not decreasing. In 2008 61 million americans volunteered 8 billion hours. Over the last year there has been a 31% increase in volunteers pitching in to fix a problem in their community. There has been a 17% increase in the numbers attending community meetings (like this one here today) The FEMA website says that 87% of Fire Departments in this country are either fully or mostly volunteer. I have volunteered quite a bit of my time in various ways in this community, as many of you have, but my efforts pale in comparison to the dedicated volunteers at our Fire Department and EMS. They volunteer the most hours, at the toughest times, and put themselves at risk, in order to help us out in an emergency. They are required to take many hours of training, and renew their certifications every 3 years. We stand to lose much more than just a few tax dollars, if we lose these volunteers. Volunteerism fosters a commitment to helping eachother. It makes us realize that we are all in this together, and that we are responsible for the well being of our neighbors and our environment. It creates a spirit of cooperation that might even make it possible to find compromises that will be acceptable to those with differing ideologies. There are many ways to increase volunteerism in our EMS. If I were elected supervisor I would speak out about it in meetings and forums and schools and I would write about it in our papers and online. I have been thinking about joining the EMS myself for awhile, but I don’t think I could if our leaders continued to talk about paradigm shifts and the inevitability of billing. That’s a self fufilling prophecy.
Before I put my name forth as a candidate for supervisor, I tried to talk Roxanne Marino into doing so. She had mentioned a year ago that she was considering it. She finally came around late in the game last week and threw her hat in the ring. I already have the nomination of the Tompkins County Green Party, and I will be on the ballot in November. If Chris Thomas wins today I will be campaigning hard, and I need your help. Chris is hard working, and well organized, and has done good work on the board, but I feel his position on this critical EMS issue is entirely wrong. I don’t want to split the progressive vote, so if you intended to vote for me, please don’t, please vote for Roxanne Marino. She has 4 years of experience on the board, and her knowledge of the issues is voluminous, she is completely ready to take the reins, and she and I are on the same page on this EMS issue.
ps: If anyone agrees with me on this issue, it would be great if you could come to some Village and Town Board meetings and express yourselves. I’m growing weary of the struggle.