Take a stand against surprising billing legislation

Surprise medical billing is a topic that I care about on a deeply personal level. I’m writing because I’m concerned about what might happen to families, like mine, if certain pieces of surprise billing legislation become law.

Many of the bills with a lot of momentum in both chambers of Congress rely on government price controls to resolve out-of-network disputes. While they seem like a convenient solution, these price controls will only make a bad situation worse by closing hospitals and cutting people off from medical care.

I would love for the practice of surprise billing to be abolished, and I’m glad Congress is motivated to do something about it.

My family and I were involved in a serious car wreck a few years ago. The accident left my daughter a quadraplegic for life. Her injuries left her confined to a wheelchair. As if dealing with the aftermath of an accident and a newly disabled child weren’t enough, six months later, we were presented with a very unexpected bill for more than $100,000. It has taken two years to resolve and for our family to recover emotionally and financially.

The accident made me incredibly grateful for our access to hospitals and specialized medical care for our daughter. Many other South Carolinians, however, do not have that same good fortune. Residents of rural areas of our state often must drive hours to the nearest specialist and are dangerously far away from the nearest trauma center if there’s an accident or emergency. Our state has been hit hard by the spate of hospital and doctors’ office closures in recent years.

Doctors and other medical providers can’t afford to operate too far from a major city here because of the insurance landscape. Federal government price controls will only give more power to insurance companies. These price controls will allow insurers in rural areas to pay providers even less than they do now. This will almost certainly close the remaining rural health care providers that are already teetering on the edge of financial ruin, stranding families and damaging the health of communities.

I ask you to take a stand for patients and their doctors, not insurance companies. Please call and ask your U.S. representatives and senators to oppose any surprise billing legislation that relies on price controls, and work toward a free-market solution that preserves patients’ access to care.

STEPHANIE RAWLINSON

Florence

Site for tiny homes isn’t downtown

Dear Editor:

I would like to clear up any confusion that Robert McCready’s letter (“Tiny homes in downtown Florence a bad idea”) in Tuesday’s edition of the Morning News might have caused about the House of Hope’s tiny house project.

These homes will be built on the property of our current shelter at 1020 W. Darlington St., not in the downtown area. We have operated our homeless shelter at this location since 2006 without issue.

I know that offering dignified housing to women and children will have positive outcomes for those in need and to the community. When women have the opportunity to be housed and in a program for long-term help, they better not only themselves but also the lives of their children.

We feel so blessed by the large outpouring of support we have received over the course of the past 30 years and hope to continue to earn that support in all of our housing projects.

I would encourage anyone who has questions about this project to visit houses4homeless.org and click on the FAQ page. If you have other questions please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at the House of Hope.

JULIE MAXHAM

Director of Development House of Hope of the Pee Dee

We have too many tiny homes already

I have to agree with the recent writer who said that tiny homes should not be built downtown. They aren’t needed.

There are already hundreds of tiny homes in the downtown area, and many of them (if not most) are rental properties. I know, because I once owned one, on Winston Street, and rented it out for about 20 years. It was only 550 square feet.

There are whole streets in the downtown area where most of the houses could be classified as tiny homes by today’s standards. The owner-occupied ones are usually well-maintained, while the rental properties are often derelict and rundown, with unkempt yards used for parking multiple vehicles or as a resting place for unused furniture and other assorted trash. They are eyesores that bring down property values for the entire neighborhood.

The problem is that those derelict properties are owned by absentee landlords who try to squeeze every possible dime of rent from tenants, which causes frequent turnover of occupants. There is no reason why those landlords could not include a lease clause limiting occupancy and requiring that the property be kept clean and well-maintained. But that would require an enforcement effort on their part that they are either too busy or lazy to be bothered with.

If a homeowner invests money into property improvements and upgrades, they are “rewarded” by a higher assessment valuation and increased property taxes. Why couldn’t there be a penalty tax on derelict properties that would encourage owners to keep them maintained?

There is apparently no code or zoning enforcement in the city. Developers are allowed to do whatever they want, with no regard for the impact it will have on the surrounding neighborhood.

Recently, on three very tiny lots at the intersection of two narrow residential streets in the downtown area, a developer was allowed to build three duplex townhouse apartments. Apparently no set-back rules were applied, and obviously occupancy density was never considered. It appears that only one parking space was allocated per apartment.

Directly across the street are two duplexes on slightly larger lots. There is no on-street parking, the streets are too narrow, and besides, the entire block is filled with driveway cuts. No city that is genuinely concerned with quality-of-life issues and improvement would have allowed those apartments to be built on those tiny lots.

Large apartment complexes have been allowed to be built on narrow streets in the Five Points area with no regard for the impact on neighborhood traffic.

Take a ride around downtown residential areas and you will observe myriad code and ordinance violations, including an ever-increasing number of commercial vehicles being stored on residential streets, inoperable vehicles and on-street parking that barely leaves enough room for a car to pass. Emergency vehicles surely couldn’t get through. I don’t know what they do about trash pickup.

If Florence truly wants to improve its appearance and the quality of life for downtown residents, it should begin by providing adequate resources to enforce existing codes and ordinances and stop kowtowing to developers looking to make a fast buck.

MICHAEL J. YOUNG

Florence

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