August 9, 2013

Letters to the editor: Medicare should be cheered, expanded

On July 30, 1965, Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law. As we note that anniversary, it is interesting to compare the health care news of our own day.

Lyndon Baines Johnson, Harry Truman,
click image to enlarge

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Medicare bill into law July 30, 1965, as former President Harry Truman, right, observes at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo. A letter writer says the program is more cost-effective than private health insurance.

1965 File Photo/The Associated Press

For instance, an article in the July 25 Portland Press Herald ("Briefcase: Wellpoint stock sets record ahead of health care reform") reports: "Shares of Wellpoint Inc. hit an all-time high Wednesday, after the nation's second-largest health insurer trounced second-quarter earnings expectations and detailed how it expects to benefit from the health care overhaul and other growth opportunities over the next few years."

I'm no economist, but it seems to me that if the payer of medical bills is trouncing earnings expectations, then the payer of premiums must be paying for more than health care.

This is of particular note when we read the same day that Anthem, a subsidiary of Wellpoint, is entering an exclusive partnership with the nonprofit MaineHealth ("Anthem-MaineHealth network approved -- with conditions"). Is that a strategy to improve health, or to "benefit from growth opportunities"?

There's other news, too: about whether to expand Medicaid coverage to the thousands of Mainers who have no insurance; about postponing the Affordable Care Act's mandate; about the move by some employers to reduce workers' hours so they can avoid providing health insurance.

All very complicated, not to mention distracting from the basic mission of health insurance -- making medical care affordable by spreading its cost.

What a contrast is the Medicare story. Despite the program's problems and the chronic, yet surely resolvable, issue of its funding, it has proved to be far more cost-effective than private health insurance (1 to 5 percent overhead cost versus 12 to 30 percent for private insurers, according to www.politifact.com), far more inclusive and certainly more efficient than the stopgap ACA.

Indeed, we should celebrate Medicare's 48th anniversary by resolving to take it to the next level -- Medicare for all.

Daniel C. Bryant, M.D.

Cape Elizabeth

Anti-abortion activists can protest where they like

This letter is in reply to the editorial "Our View: Clinic doors wrong place for abortion protesters" (July 30):

I beg to differ. One of the nefarious arguments that the Portland Press Herald repeats several times is seen at the very beginning of their pro-abortion propaganda spiel, which reads as follows: "Free speech is not the right to interfere with an individual accessing a medical facility."

Do tell. Since when can't a protester stand on any public right of way and picket or criticize any institution, be it a business of any kind or a medical facility such as a hospital or one of Planned Parenthood's baby-killing establishments?

Also, a normal medical facility is a place where the goal is to heal. Oh, yes, Planned Parenthood does a few diagnostic procedures such as mammograms, HIV and pregnancy testing, but precious few healing methods are offered.

Furthermore, it cannot be denied that their goal is not to heal but to deny life by killing someone who God miraculously created and had special plans for. This is to be accomplished either by pills, saline solution or a procedure that is more bloody and gory than what was once used by executioners in England, where the criminal was drawn and quartered.

However, there's no question that pro-lifers have a legal right to stand on the sidewalk, without blocking it, directly in front of any Planned Parenthood facility and freely voice their opposition to this cruel, inhuman execution of babies in the womb.

Furthermore, when this comes before Portland officials, they should not only rule as above, but advise Planned Parenthood that if they are that unhappy about the present situation, they could provide a back entrance adjacent to their parking lot.

Philip E. Kennard

Windham

Testing chemicals in any of God's children is horrible

At the bottom of Page A7 in the July 8 paper, there is an article ("Book shows science crossed ethical lines") on a book detailing how certain children and adolescents judged to be of low brain power have been used by certain organizations to test chemicals of one sort or other. The article does not say how many died.

At the age of 96, my memory is long enough to remember that the Nazis carried out similar tests on imprisoned Jews. The civilized world was horrified. We should be more than horrified that inhuman acts like this in my beloved country are only now coming to light.

Our newspaper should protest, in the name of humanity. People may be below average in intelligence, but they are just as much children of God as the very brightest among us.

Francis Madeira

Falmouth

'Right-wing propaganda' hard to find in newspapers

Letter writer George Eaton ("Paper offers too much space to views of right 'extremists'," July 31) is either a master of irony, or he reads different editions of the Portland newspapers than I do.

Can he seriously accuse the papers of being a conduit for a "right-wing propaganda bureau" because of its two respected conservative columnists, M.D. Harmon and Charles Krauthammer?

Or could he have been referring to some of the Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram's other columnists (e.g., Leonard Pitts, Greg Kesich, Dana Milbank, Barney Frank, Bill Nemitz and Alan Caron)?

Eaton's letter made for a provocative headline but little sense.

Dennis Twomey

Old Orchard Beach

Alfond has nothing to fear from conservative center

Recently Justin Alfond criticized the new charter school, Baxter Academy for Technology and Science, for hosting the annual Friedman Legacy Day Celebration luncheon for the Maine Heritage Policy Center ("Baxter school criticized for luncheon with political group," July 30).

In his statement, he accused the school of partnering with the most extreme organization in the state of Maine. Really?

I would like to know: Which of the Maine Heritage Policy Center's positions does Alfond feel most threatened by -- limited government, reduced spending or restoring our Constitution?

Susan Gillis

Cape Elizabeth

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