With the votes now cast on the governor’s latest budget, I have heard some lawmakers defend their vote for it as an attempt to move Maine into the “mainstream” with other states. 

While this may be true in some respects, in one instance this is glaringly false. In 2010, only Alabama and Georgia did not cover some form of tobacco cessation treatment in their state’s Medicaid program beyond federal requirements. Today, you can add Maine to that misguided list.

In its final state budget, Maine eliminated the tobacco cessation medication benefit for MaineCare (Medicaid) enrollees. The move claims to save the state about $385,000 in fiscal year 2013. In 2010, smoking cost Maine people more than $600 million in health care expenditures; $216 million of this was paid for by MaineCare.  

The smoking rate in 2010 among adults with incomes less than $15,000 per year (MaineCare eligible) was more than 37 percent — more than double that of Maine’s general adult population. Clearly, Maine has more — not less — work to do in reducing tobacco use, improving health and lowering costs among this vulnerable population.

When they removed treatment barriers to Massachusetts Medicaid recipients who wanted to quit smoking, they got the following results: More than 70,000 people tried to quit; the smoking rate among the Medicaid population dropped from 38 percent to 28 percent; hospitalization for certain smoking-related diseases dropped more than 45 percent from levels before the benefit was offered.

Most importantly from a budget perspective, in the first year, the state saved $3 for every $1 it invested in helping low-income people quit smoking. 

Our legislators were well aware of this evidence when they decided to roll back coverage. If ever there was a budget cut that was penny-wise and pound-foolish, it was eliminating tobacco cessation coverage. 

The “mainstream” 47 states see helping low-income smokers quit as a smart investment. It is too bad Maine is no longer one of them.

Edward F. Miller

senior vice president for public policy

American Lung Association of the Northeast

Augusta

School union experience alienates Saco parents

I think Gillian Graham’s May 31 article on Saco’s RSU (“School costs raise concerns”) was well-written and covered many of the aspects of the current RSU controversy in Saco.

It remains a simple fact that no municipality in the state of Maine with a population of more than 17,001 is in an RSU except Saco. Saco’s 2010 census was 18,482 and continues to grow. A significant portion of this growth is due to young families wishing to take advantage of the quality of education delivered at an economic cost by the Saco schools.

Since joining RSU 23, Saco has been in a school union with rising overhead costs and a sharply rising tax rate. If Saco followed the approach used by the similarly sized communities of Westbrook, Scarborough and Augusta, it would be able to return to its previous path of attention to the education of its children.

As Graham stated in her article, though there is no organized movement to remove Saco from the RSU, there is an undercurrent of parents unhappy with the results the RSU has produced. Well-educated parents of Saco’s children are being politicized by what has gone on.

These Saco taxpayers and voters are becoming energized. I expect they will seek to reform first the RSU board, where there is not one parent with a child currently enrolled in Saco schools. Then these parents will seek seats on the City Council.

It is equally true that Old Orchard Beach has been able to operate a school system that met the purposes of its voters and their children.

An RSU board member has pointed out that Old Orchard Beach by some measure carries a disproportionate share of the RSU’s costs. Therefore, Old Orchard Beach taxpayers should be pleased to see Saco leave the RSU.

Marston Lovell

Saco

Ticket dims enjoyment of day spent in Portland

I took the day off to spend it with my 6-year-old son. We decided to go to the children’s museum in Portland.

I am aware of the parking issues in Portland, so I made sure to bring extra quarters. I had two hours on the meter ($1). I spent $18 to get into the museum. We spent an additional $4.50 using the vending machines there. No problem so far.

Here is the rub: I checked my watch, and I had a few minutes until the meter expired. My son was in a supervised activity, so I wasn’t able to get out to my car with him until two hours and nine minutes passed on my two-hour meter. I had on my windshield a $15 ticket.

Yes, I was late. However, that is about as lame as it gets. I hope the antagonism to the driving public is worth it to the city of Portland and those who are trying to run a business.

If I have a choice to buy products at stores and not risk a ticket, that is where I will start. I know that Freeport and the Maine Mall have free parking. Geez, that’s friendly and Maine-like.

Portland, you may want to help your businesses profit by taking it easy on those who have to drive in to your city to spend their money. You may find a lifting effect on your micro-economy.

The first parking meters were installed in New York City to keep the newly popularized “car” from double and triple parking, thereby keeping the streets clear for traffic. Now we have an income source for cities and towing services in the form of meter fees, tickets and towing charges.

David Johnson

Falmouth

Exclusive focus on profits shortchanges employees

As we reflect upon the recent recall events in Wisconsin, I, for the first time in my life, felt compelled to respond to the increasingly distorted picture of the American worker and employer. I feel I have an informed perspective, as I have been both.

Growing up in a family business of 30 years, I learned the true and simple keys to success. It was not an overly complicated business philosophy: Treat your people with dignity and respect and listen to them; they know a lot about their jobs.

Who are these people who vilify the American worker? What are their motives?

Do we need change? Yes. But let’s stop buying a bill of goods by a very profitable, exclusive power base that sees employees as an unfortunate impediment to never-ending quarterly profits. It doesn’t have to be either-or. And, for the long-term benefit of all of us, it can’t be.

Kenneth Jacques

Alfred