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Letters to the editor 2/10

February 10, 2003

For-profit insurer won't solve problems



To the editor:


CareFirst's recent ad in the Hagerstown's Daily Mail tried to make you believe its sale to a for-profit California insurer would help solve this region's health-care problems.

In fact, Maryland consumers have little to gain and much to lose from this deal.

It would do little or nothing to help 600,000 Marylanders lacking health insurance. Money from this sale would only provide enough to fund a range of small, temporary health-care access projects. Nothing more.

In exchange, we'd lose our major health insurer to WellPoint, a California company whose top priority is providing its stockholders with a high return on investment. In fact one consultant looking at the deal for the insurance commissioner estimates that WellPoint would spend 5 percent less of the premium dollar on covering health services.

WellPoint is known for its "lite" insurance products that often feature high deductibles, additional out-of-pocket payments, restrictions on treatment and rising premiums. Further, WellPoint's focus on "right pricing" and "careful" underwriting of sicker patients will leave more in Maryland uninsured and underinsured, with higher premiums, stressing our state-supported health programs.

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We agree with CareFirst's ad in one respect: We do have an opportunity here. We should say "no" to the loss of our regional non-profit health insurer and then re-write the law so that CareFirst provides greater benefits to the public. We've already got major troubles in Maryland when it comes to affordable and accessible health insurance. Permitting the sale of CareFirst would worsen those problems.

James P. Hamill

President and CEO Washington

County Health System

Chairman, Maryland Hospital

Association Blue Cross Conversion Task Force




Towns on short end of state stick



To the editor:


Last week in Annapolis more than 50 mayors from municipalities across Maryland - including Mayor William Breichner of Hagerstown, Mayor Dan Murphy of Hancock and Mayor Mildred Myers of Smithsburg - gathered to make it clear to our respective legislative delegations that the current state budget proposal could cripple the ability of our cities and towns to provide the most basic of services to our citizens.

Let me be clear that we are looking forward to working with governor Ehrlich and his staff, and our initial meetings have been cordial and productive.

What seems to be missing in Annapolis is the understanding that government in this state is a partnership consisting of state, county and local government, the latter two equal under the law.

Today, the state proposal would force us at the local level to postpone or cancel the projects that affect our citizens most.

Do we sacrifice the purchase or refurbishment of fire trucks and ambulances in order to fill potholes? Do we skip filling our potholes and repairing streets to maintain safe playgrounds for our children?

We, as mayors, understand we must do our part during difficult times. As citizens and members of the Maryland Municipal League, we are deeply concerned about the direction our new governor is taking regarding the funding of services that our citizens care about the most.

Lynn Faufaste

President

Maryland Municipal League

Mayor

Town of Kensington

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