Clinton health plan needs more workAfter reading about the...

the Forum

September 29, 1993

Clinton health plan needs more work

After reading about the president's proposed national health care plan I am greatly disturbed at the level of naivete. While supposedly "all encompassing," it has many faults.

The president says that everyone will contribute toward coverage, with employers large and small bearing a fair share of the expense. The plan proposed a 7.9 percent of payroll cap on large businesses, with all small businesses expected to contribute at a prorated level.

The reality is that most large employers have contracts that were a result of collective bargaining. Frequently employees gave up larger wage increases in lieu of more comprehensive medical plans. A large corporation such as General Motors pays 19 percent of its payroll for employee medical coverage.

Do the president and his advisers believe that GM will pass back the difference to employees who bargained in good faith for that coverage? The scenario they expect is that large corporation will hire more people if they do not have to pay so much toward medical coverage.

Why are they hoping more people will be hired? Because they anticipate that many small businesses will let go people because they will not be able to afford the added expense of medical coverage.

Small business owners should be alarmed at these proposals. There has to be another way of providing coverage to the uninsured than striking at small businesses, the backbone of our economy.

Moreover, while covering many pre-existing conditions, the president's plan does not cover such basic necessities as eyeglasses and hearing aids for adults. A person needing either of these can argue a hardship condition without them. I'd rather not drive behind a person who cannot see himself in the mirror without glasses.

Finally, I would like to level a criticism at the proposed $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes to help fund the plan. I'm a non-smoker, but I find offensive the idea of taxing so highly an addiction.

I know people will argue that smoking contributes to medical problems. However, it is still an addiction that is particularly high among the young, the undereducated and the less well-to-do.

Before the Clinton plan is adopted it needs a lot more work.

Georgianna M. Jenkins

Baltimore

Erickson rules

Rarely have I read anything so truly Nixonesque as the letter from John Erickson, founder of the Charleston Retirement Community, in the Sept. 9 Evening Sun.

Mr. Erickson is clearly in a snit over the county's refusal to play along with his plans for building a retirement community in the Greenspring Valley and has vowed revenge against those he holds responsible -- the "wealthy land barons."

Mr. Erickson's vendetta is not only unbecoming, it is strangely off target. Opposition to his project is broad-based. Ordinary Joes and Josephines from Catonsville to Middle River oppose the plan because they believe in preservation of open space and controlled development.

They also resent Mr. Erickson's special-rules-for-me attitude. It is extremely dubious whether any of these opponents has an income that even approaches that of Mr. Erickson.

Further, although the Charlestown Retirement Community has a reputation as a very fine establishment, it caters (increasingly, it seems) to a well-heeled clientele. Units in the recently completed St. Charles building are going for up to $250,000, with monthly fees of over $1,000 for a single resident and a significantly higher supplement for each additional resident.

Sidney Turner

Catonsville

City cable TV monopoly is a downer

I am writing this letter to bring to the public eye a problem with United Artists Cable in Baltimore City that consumers are very familiar with. The problem is the poor service and frequency of the loss of reception.

When the cable goes out, as it often does, we have to call the company. Then we must go through 10 minutes of pressing numbers on the phone just to hear, "If the problem isn't solved in five minutes, please call back.''

I was so frustrated one day, I spent four hours trying to talk to a supervisor because the USA, ESPN, TNT and Nostalgia channels were coming in very badly. This would not be so bad, but these channels are a Plus service and cost extra. As I am writing this, my cable has been out for four hours on Sunday.

I feel that since this company is the only one in Baltimore City, they have us at a disadvantage. As an individual, there isn't much I can do. But I do think we as consumers should have a voice.

If you are a little behind on your bill, they are very quick to turn off your service and then charge you more to turn it back on. This is their right, and we know it's not personal, only business.

But I think that if we don't have service for five or six hours we should not be charged for their down time. Let's look at some numbers and dollar amounts.

My monthly bill is $75. There are about 720 hours in a month. If we divide $75 by 720 hours, we come up with a cost of about 10 cents per hour for cable television service.

Now if my service is out for eight hours a month, which is low, then that is 80 cents the cable company is paid for providing no service. Would you like to pay someone 80 cents for doing nothing?

And wouldn't you be mad if you had to pay them for missing the Raiders-Seahawks football game, as I did tonight?

To one person, 80 cents isn't that much money. But suppose 20,000 people, which is also low, had to pay 80 cents. That is $16,000 United is making for giving no service.

My point is, I feel they should be made to adjust the monthly bill and deduct the down time. Maybe if this is done they will get their act together and give quality service.

As the only cable company in town, they can provide poor service, make you wait in long lines to pay for poor service and get away with it. The worst thing is that they know they can do this.

Isn't there a law against taking money for services not rendered?

Samuel Mitchell

Baltimore

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