May 14, 2013

Letters to the editor: Bill would revive union insurance monopoly

I understand that the Press Herald looks at everything Maine from a liberal perspective.

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A reader is critical of a proposal to repeal a law that would require the state teachers union to provide data needed for competititive bidding on most Maine schools’ health insurance contracts.

However, I was surprised to find not one mention of L.D. 300, "An Act to Protect School Administrative Units and Taxpayers."

How could anyone not love that title? The only problem is that the act protects neither schools nor taxpayers.

It should be more appropriately called "An Act to Protect the Union's Monopoly Providing Health Insurance to Schools and to Cost Taxpayers." (I'm interested in this subject because I managed school employee health insurance in similar situations.)

For many years, the teachers union's benefits trust (the Maine Education Association Benefits Trust) provided health insurance to most schools in Maine with no competition.

The last Legislature passed a law to encourage competitive bidding for insurance. The MEA Benefits Trust responded by refusing to provide employee claims data to the schools. (These data are needed to obtain competitive bids.)

Instead, the benefits trust sued to overturn the law, claiming that claims data are their trade secret! They lost in two jurisdictions.

Now along comes L.D. 300, which would not require the benefits trust to provide employee claims information to the employees' schools. One supporter of L.D. 300 says that bidding would not provide long-term savings. How does he know?

The problems that supporters put forth are straw men. To see the real impact of competitive bidding, just look at Wisconsin. Schools have saved millions of dollars through competitive bidding. The union trust even lowered previously quoted rates.

School budgets are being squeezed hard all over the state. In this situation, what kind of legislator would vote to preserve the union's monopoly at the expense of the schools and the taxpayers?

The only way to determine the extent of the savings is to obtain bids. Bids can't be obtained without claims experience.

Question: What is the Maine Education Association Benefits Trust's profit or reserve?

Allan Brockman


Photo not only indicator of housing aid seeker's needs

A letter from one of your readers demonstrates remarkable nerve ("Let young, healthy people earn their rent," April 23).

Are we to assume, as she has, that by looking at a few people in a single photograph, we can know whether they are in fact "able-bodied" and therefore not in need of housing assistance?

Are we to assume that those who apply for housing assistance are not already cleaning offices at night or flipping burgers to earn a meager living?

The fact remains that far too many jobs pay far too little to be a viable means of support for far too many people.

The job market has changed a great deal in just a few years, and people are struggling. Even the lowest-paying jobs aren't always available.

While we all appreciate the reader's years of service before retiring, she might better use her time by gathering a few more facts before deciding for the working poor how best to use their time.

James Corbin


New dental care providers can work safely, effectively

Mainers suffer from a lack of access to oral health care.

Two-thirds of Mainers live in rural areas; only 13.5 percent of dentists practice in rural areas.

Within five years, 23.7 percent of dentists in Maine plan to retire and 16.1 percent expect to reduce their hours.

The Maine Office of Rural Health and Primary Care reports there is a shortage of dentists in nearly every Maine county.

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