Health ConsumersWith all of the talk in Annapolis and the...


March 18, 1995

Health Consumers

With all of the talk in Annapolis and the discussion among "professionals" over health care issues, what often gets lost is the patient-consumer's perspective.

The patient-access bill before the General Assembly would permit HMO members to opt out of the HMO network and see the doctor of their choice if they are willing to assume some financial responsibility for this additional choice and flexibility.

While this is often framed as a battle between insurance companies and health care providers, what it is really about is the patient's interest.

Increasingly, health care options are dictated by managed care programs. While this has led to some savings, the pendulum may have swung too far toward cost controls and away from health care delivery. Instead of managed care, we are getting managed cost.

I believe there are many positive things about HMOs. For regular medical checkups and routine care, the HMO does its job in an efficient manner.

However, there is no flexibility in their design for occurrences which aren't routine. Most families encounter at least one major illness sooner or later. When this happens, all patients should be entitled, if willing to share in the cost, to go to the doctor they believe offers the best chance for helping them.

The patient access bill provides a good compromise position. It will help reclaim patient rights, while not upsetting the HMO system.

Surely the fact that a patient would have to pay is a strong disincentive to going out of the plan. And, the HMOs would only have to cover 80 percent of what they would normally pay for a service. It seems fair that patients regain the right to make important health care choices if they are willing to pay for that option.

Debra Brooks


Nuclear Cargo

Jonathan Power seriously mis-portrays the facts in his Feb. 23 column regarding a shipment of waste materials from facilities in France back to Japan.

It is not a shipment of plutonium at all. The cargo is, in fact, nuclear waste that has been chemically separated from reusable materials as part of the well-established Japanese policy of recycling used nuclear fuel.

The waste has been immobilized by conditioning it within solid glass blocks. Nuclear experts around the world believe this is the best and safest method of treating, transporting and storing this type of material. This shipment represents part of an integrated program among companies in Japan, Britain and France.

The international transport of such nuclear materials is nothing new. The shipping company involved is the most experienced in the world for handling this type of nuclear cargo.

Some 4,000 similar flasks have been transported by sea since the 1960s in accordance with strict international regulations and with no incident involving a breach of containment.

The ship being used was specifically designed to carry these materials, has the highest safety rating of the International Maritime Organization and has a host of enhanced safety features, including satellite navigation, a double hull to withstand collision damage, enhanced buoyancy, twin engines and propellers and additional fire fighting equipment . . .

Gavin Carter

Yuichiro Matsuo

Michael McMurphy

The writers represent, respectively, British Nuclear Fuels PLC, Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan and Cogema, Inc.

Name Calling

In his column of March 2, George Will uses the issue of affirmative action to indulge in an exercise in liberal-bashing. Rather than using reasoned arguments to discredit an idea, he instead resorts to name calling.

The question that needs to be discussed is whether racism and sexism in this country still exist at a level to warrant affirmative action remedies and, if so, when and where should they be applied, and what form should they take.

If affirmative action is abandoned, how does one protect minorities and women who are still victims of discrimination?

Even with all the laws and statutes against discrimination, it is often very difficult to prove without resorting to numbers and percentages. All one knows is that one didn't get the job, promotion or loan even though he/she met or exceeded all the qualifications.

When discrimination is proven, is the perpetrator simply told not to do it anymore, or should some sort of compensatory measures be required?

While it is true that in a color/gender-blind society, affirmative action would be unnecessary and unfair, we are far from reaching that goal, and opponents of affirmative action should not pretend that we have.

Furthermore, while white males are sometimes the victims, discrimination against minorities and women is still far more prevalent.

These are issues which need to be discussed openly and thoroughly on their merits without resorting to name calling and labeling.

Eric H. Brown


Armed Enemies

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