Health care reform offers opportunities and costs

The recent Associated Press article (“Survey: 1 in 10 Mainers lack health insurance”) reports disturbing statistics on the lack of insurance coverage in Maine, but it fails to address the precarious situations many Mainers with health insurance are still in.

Those of us who buy insurance independently in Maine are offered very few affordable choices, primarily “catastrophic” plans like Anthem’s Health Choice. A couple of weeks ago, I received a notice that Anthem planned to raise my Health Choice premium by 23 percent. I was rather shocked, as 2009 was a mildly deflationary year according the latest economic data (minus 0.4 percent). This is on top of last year’s 10 percent increase, which was far lower than what Anthem requested.

These annual increases force many hard-working Mainers to drop their coverage or to switch to higher- deductible plans. Because catastrophic plans provide no meaningful benefits, they encourage people to put off basic preventative care and to postpone seeing a doctor until the crisis point is reached.

Further, many will end up in bankruptcy because they do not have the $5,000 or $10,000 they must spend before their deductible is met.

Anthem’s coverage options and pricing decisions teach us that the system is broken. It does not promote preventative care and best practices that would help reduce the growth of health care spending. It does not provide universal coverage.

It does not even provide peace of mind to policyholders.

Sage M. Friedman




Republicans are offering us a death sentence for people lacking health care, because having people not covered by insurance results in the early deaths of many.

People without health care do not get regular checkups that detect early signs of cancer, heart trouble and other medical problems. As a result, they suffer early death, because by the time they find out they are sick, it’s too late.

The Republicans say that the present proposed law is not the right package. They said the same thing when Hillary Clinton proposed it, but in the following years never came up with a package of their own. Instead of spending on health care and saving lives, they spent billions on war, killing many.

The Republican Party has become the party of death. Our senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, are part of that party.

Richard Wise

Retired commander, U.S. Coast Guard



Mainers running small businesses don’t have much time to think about partisan politics. They are too busy trying to keep their businesses afloat and preserving the state’s economy, where small business provides almost all private-sector job growth.

So when small businesses complain that the health care bill still kicking around in Washington would saddle them with unaffordable federal mandates for health care coverage, Congress should listen.

It’s a relief that Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have listened. They did Maine proud by taking an objective, bipartisan look at the health care bill backed by President Obama. But in the end, common sense convinced them not to support a bill that would be downright punitive to the Maine economy. The bill socks small employers with hefty federal mandates for providing health care coverage.

If a small business can’t afford the mandated coverage, it will be hit with equally hefty federal fines. The next stop is bankruptcy and another notch up in the unemployment rate.

After all the talk in Washington about standing up to huge insurance companies, when push came to shove the health care bill turned its guns on the little people running small businesses.

Instead of handicapping these businesses and the people who work for them, Congress should come up with real health care reform that lowers the cost of both health care and health coverage.

Washington needs to acknowledge what the rest of the country seems to know already. It’s time to scrap the current health care proposal and to come back with one that makes sense.

Kevin A. Crocker



It is clear that most Americans do not like the health care reform legislation that took up so much time in the U.S. Congress last year.

We have our own Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to thank for trying to bring a good legislative package forward and for standing firm against bad legislation.

We need health care reform that meets the needs of small businesses. These are the companies that will deliver the economic improvement and new jobs we need to get our country back on track. Passing a bill that hurts small business will have negative ramifications throughout the economy.

Small businesses need reform that will encourage medical entrepreneurship, allow competition across state lines, make medical costs transparent to consumers, remove insurance mandates and provide the same tax benefits for employer- provided and individually owned health insurance policies.

It’s time for Congress to start anew and deliver on good reform that will help consumers and businesses while improving our economy.

Jan Andrews



I enjoy an enviable health insurance plan. It is part of my “retirement” benefits, after serving the Catholic Diocese of Portland for 50 years. I can visit my primary physician twice a year – once for a complete physical exam and once more for a six-month checkup.

If he discovers that I may need a specialist, I am scheduled for a visit. In addition, I have twice-a-year dental checkups and “some” payment for dental crowns. My co-pay is reasonable. I am very grateful to the folks who pay in the pews, very grateful.

Many of my relatives in other fields of livelihood enjoy similar insurance programs. And I know that our representatives in Congress enjoy the same kind of health insurance, if not better.

As a result, I can understand how so many of us can live our entire lives thinking “What’s all the fuss about health insurance? I’m tired of hearing about it. Can’t we get on with watching TV?” If we didn’t tune in to the nightly TV news, we might never know about the “health insurance problem” in the United States.

What is this problem? A high percentage of Americans do not enjoy the insurance that I enjoy. They do not visit a primary care physician even once or twice a year. They are not scheduled into visiting a specialist. They put off visiting a dentist. Their chronic health conditions go untreated.

I don’t get personally involved with politics because I don’t know enough about the intricacies of the issues. Instead, I religiously vote at every election for people who will represent me in solving this state’s and country’s problems. (This is the way our founding parents set up our governments.)

But if these elected officials do not do what they promised they would do – help people who can only be helped by government action – shouldn’t they “retire” and let some other people be nominated for the next election?

Rev. Joseph R. McKenna




It’s always safer to oppose than propose; finding fault is easier than finding solutions. These are lessons that too many politicians learn early in their careers, and they were behind much of the opposition to health care reform last year.

That’s part of the case Greg Kesich makes in his thoughtful Feb. 10 column on Sen. Susan Collins and the health care reform bill she voted against last year.

Although Sen. Collins (and Sen. Olympia Snowe) are to be congratulated for participating in the process, and even bringing forth useful amendments, still it’s hard not to see their ultimate “no” votes as a victory for partisanship over principle.

Sen. Collins has recently acknowledged that the bill she opposed contained several provisions she supported – and ironically, given her party’s complaints about legislative overreach, she now claims her objection was that these particular reforms didn’t go far enough or fast enough.

Early last year, one of Sen. Collins’ Republican colleagues had strategized about making a failed health care reform effort President Obama’s “Waterloo.” I tend to share Kesich’s suspicions that much of the opposition to reform that would have extended needed health coverage to millions of Americans, and begun the process of bringing down costs, was grounded in such simple but sad political calculation.

But as President Obama has said, it’s not him but the American people who truly lose when such political gamesmanship wins.

Johanna Sorrell



The Democrats originally came up with a public option that was designed to provide people with the alternative to buy a low-cost insurance plan run by the government.

However, with the insurance industry’s “buying power” in Washington, they successfully crafted a new and stripped-down version that the Congressional Budget Office forecast would now “cost more than a comparable private plan, and would (optimistically) attract merely zero to 6 million customers” (assuming it could even get off the ground since no insurance company has managed to start up from scratch in decades).

The result of the current congressional bills is that Americans will be required to purchase health insurance from private insurance companies without any realistic alternative.

It is unfortunate that the Democrats in Washington do not understand that the people are tired of corporate handouts and bailouts, and the Democratic Party will pay dearly in November if it persists in ignoring the needs of the people over the demands of the lobbyists. In these hard economic times, it makes more sense than ever for Washington to provide all Americans with a system to maximize their health care dollars.

They can do that by setting up a program for all Americans to combine their money into one insurance pool that distributes the risk as wide as possible, and thereby provide health care at the lowest cost while providing complete coverage without co-pays, deductibles or lifetime maximum coverage limits.

The financing of health care is beyond the capability of the private sector. The government must provide the solution like it provides other infrastructure: roads, education, fire and police, etc. The government must step forward and own up to its obligation to “promote the general welfare.”

Jerry Call

South Thomaston



The health care “reform” that was discussed at the summit in Washington on Feb. 25 did not include a Medicare-for-all single-payer option.

The plan that 65 percent of U.S. citizens are in favor of, the plan that over 50 percent of Physicians for National Health Care have been supporting, was not even allowed on the table.

President Obama, who offered hope a year ago, is delivering a death sentence to many uninsured. He could have made the difference that would have provided health care for everyone in this country.

It is tragic that the health plan likely to pass will leave more than 25 million people uninsured. Who will pick up the tab for these folks? No one, and many will die on the streets. It’s as though our representatives in Washington no longer represent us at all.

Who do they represent? How can the most efficient system of health care proven to work in so many countries, one that could have saved countless lives and billions of dollars, not even be part of the discussion in Washington?

Who is representing the 65 percent of us who want Medicare for all? Who is representing those Physicians for National Health Care? Why are we ignored? I am afraid we are now a country that is driven by corporate greed, not individual needs.

The hot-dog vendor summed it up well: “They don’t care about us.”

Claudine Grange



It’s wrong to deny global warming

Remember: Global warming does not mean that everywhere gets hotter at an equal rate. Local temperatures will vary. The long-term result of excessive carbon emissions is more accurately labeled “climate change.”

Climate change is often more noticeable in some regions of unusually heavy precipitation while other regions suffer severe droughts. Other examples of climate change are frequent and violent storms including hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes and lightning activity.

Do not let go unchallenged the misinformed comments of those who might say for a laugh that blizzards hitting the mid-Atlantic states and snowfall in the Deep South surely put the lie to the global warming theory.

It is actually pretty good evidence that something very unusual is happening to our weather on a very large scale. Now go to the Internet or your local library and do a little research. Review some of the extreme weather seen in recent weeks, months and years around our Mother Earth.

All around, storms are occurring that are described as once-in-a-hundred-years events. However, they are happening more and more frequently.

Chances these are merely coincidence are growing less and less possible. How much clearer a sign do we need to receive from God (or Mother Nature, if you prefer)? We need to direct our elected leaders to wake up.

Call or write demanding that we mandate major carbon emissions reductions – now. And pray that the snow keeps falling on Washington until the message is received.

Mark Bennett



Even if we believe that columnist M.D. Harmon’s recent assumption (“Many new developments on ‘global warming’ front,” Feb. 5) that the science of global warming is flawed, most people in the United States agree that it is important and prudent to wean ourselves from fossil-fuel imports.

Many people also realize that drilling for more oil and fossil fuels at home – for example, tar sands, off-shore and blowing up mountaintops – is not the solution either.

While we are building our renewable portfolio and creating clean- energy jobs through a new industrial revolution, focusing on energy efficiency is key.

A viable alternative during this energy transition would be to phase out centralized power plants that are only 33 percent efficient and begin recycling waste heat. Many engineers agree that by decentralizing new and replacement capacity we could increase efficiency by 60 percent.

Mr. Harmon argues that it is “political” and not scientific that the “Environmental Protection Agency is poised to regulate CO2 as a pollutant” and that it could increase costs to U.S. businesses by $7 trillion by 2029.

If the million or more companies that he suggests will be hamstrung by new carbon reduction regulations took advantage of recycling their waste heat, millions of dollars could be saved, not to mention reduction in harmful emissions and fossil-fuel use.

The time is now to shift to a new paradigm – the Senate needs immediately to pass legislation for climate recovery and a clean-energy jobs future.

Anne D. (Andy) Burt



Let me point out a factual error in M.D. Harmon’s Feb. 19 column, “Climate change causes not all that ‘settled,’ says lead IPCC scientist.”

In the fifth paragraph Mr. Harmon states, erroneously, “after a whistle-blower released thousands of e-mails ” The e-mails were illegally obtained when the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit’s computers were hacked by an outside source. The term “whistle-blower” gives the impression that the release of the e-mails was by someone within or close to the research unit. It was not.

Mr. Harmon also misrepresents the science involved in climate research by leading readers into the false choice of thinking the science is “settled” or unsettled.

The science is ongoing, with many uncertainties, but with over three decades of research by tens of thousands of researchers in many, many countries, in many different disciplines, a consensus does exist for man contributing to global climate change.

The IPCC reports acknowledge this is not a question of “settled” science, but ongoing study that has reached a level of certainty warranting immediate action. It is not a matter of being settled or unsettled. There is a level of scientific certainty, with much uncertainty still to be addressed – the lack of resolution in computer models to make accurate regional predictions, for instance, according to the journal Nature.

Mr. Harmon’s “denier” posture misrepresents, and misunderstands, how climate science is done.

Stephen Demetriou



In response to M.D. Harmon’s ongoing promotion of the fallacies of climate change: I feel it’s my moral duty to say “enough already.”

Whether you believe in climate change or not, the crux of the debate is about whether or not to invest in clean energy.

Promoting ways to produce clean energy so we can reduce pollution, make our country more secure, and create jobs should not take a back seat to whether “climate change is for real or not.”

M.D. Harmon’s diatribe on climate change continues to promote petty politics and divisiveness.

Countries like India, Germany and China (yes, China, e.g. high-speed trains) have already gotten a huge head start on securing their place in the clean-energy sector. Our country is still debating. And I don’t get it.

America has a long history of being self-reliant, of being innovative, of leading the way to a bright future. As long as we have people encouraging us to “not change,” we will continue to suffer the consequences of not taking the lead on clean energy.

We have been at a standstill with health care reform and the jobs bill and financial reform.

This is costing us our future as it continues to delay our focus on moving forward with clean energy.

I encourage anyone and everyone to contact Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and tell them we need action now. It’s time to tell the naysayers like M.D. Harmon “enough already” and to move the conversation forward.

Maine and America’s future cannot wait.

Joann Goodwin

South Portland


Cartoon on Obama herding cats was insulting – to cats

Bill Schorr’s March 1 cartoon showing Obama astride a jackass herding cats labeled “Democrats” is an insult!

It is an insult to cats, one of God’s grandest, most intelligent and loyal creatures.

They no more resemble Democrats than Obama resembles a leader!

He should have been herding rats – the quintessential Democrat!

M. Roberts Hunt




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