Why all sides need medical care dataIt appears that the...


January 29, 1996

Why all sides need medical care data

It appears that the medical community, particularly psychiatrists, are gearing up to obstruct the implementation of a state medical data bank using the issue of ''patient confidentiality.''

This is a red herring. Health care purchasers and consumers sorely need this information.

For years, crunching increases in health care costs have absorbed profits and halted economic increases for workers, and nobody could say why.

Each provider blamed the other. Efforts by management and labor to seek accurate information and solutions were stone-walled.

So a statewide labor-management committee was formed with representation from Maryland large and small businesses and the Maryland and D.C. AFL-CIO.

The only solution was legislation creating a state data bank which required providers to divulge fees, practice patterns, outcomes and other pertinent facts so better decisions could be made on costs and quality of health care.

After three years of hard lobbying, the labor-management committee was successful in pushing such a bill through.

The group that framed the bill had adequate representation from the medical community. After concessions to them, what we thought was an acceptable bill was enacted that guaranteed total confidentiality for the patient.

Now many doctors, particularly psychiatrists, are back-tracking, using the issue of ''patient confidentiality,'' when what they really want is confidentiality on their fees and practice patterns.

The state already had accumulated similar information on patients in hospitals, Medicaid and other social programs, and to date there has never been a breach of patient privacy.

Strong safeguards are provided in this legislation. There is no reason to believe this data will not be protected just as well.

We need this data. We pay the bill. We need to identify where there are useless procedures, high fees, bad practice patterns, and also where quality health care prevails.

Good providers should welcome this information.

Ernest B. Crofoot

Don Hillier


The writers are co-chairmen of the Health Action Committee of the Maryland Alliance for Labor-Management Cooperation.

MTA riders should pay for good service

According to a recent newspaper article, the MTA money drain is due to the Metro, light rail and MARC route extensions. Well, why don't they put their price increase where the drain is?

I have not traveled the MARC or light rail, but have on occasions enjoyed the smooth and timely commute on the Metro. What delightful traveling.

I happen to live in Northeast Baltimore and it takes me 20 minutes to get to the Coldspring Station. The No. 3 and No. 36 routes are three blocks from my home. Realizing the cost of fuel and car maintenance, it is less costly and more convenient (but annoying) for me to travel by bus.

I have ridden buses for the past 20 years to school and work. I have traveled on the No. 36 (pathetically slow), the No. 8 (the crazy 8), and No. 3 (one for MTA). A co-worker states that the No. 15 (bar on wheels) is never on time.

During rush hour, buses are over-crowded, toe-to-toe passengers, foul public odors, prolonged bumpy rides, and stops every quarter mile.

I have a friend who lives in Harford County, leaves downtown at 4:30 p.m. and arrives home in 50 minutes. I leave downtown, catch a local bus, and arrive home in 50 to 55 minutes. ''Really rotten service'' is an understatement.

To increase the price for a adventure on an MTA bus is an insult to the bus-riding public. Now, bus passengers must pay zone fares and the light rail has no zone fares (huh?). Why can light rail passengers ride from Glen Burnie to Timonium for one fare?

I understand the attempt at fairness to all public transportation riders, but no one would expect to pay the same price for a taxi ride as a limousine ride. I plead to transit administrators to reflect closer at the dispersing of the price increase for their services.

Ruth Thomas


Riding the buses was a pleasant surprise

The letter about bus service Jan. 23 compelled me to write. A few weeks ago my car needed a week-long stay at my local repair shop. Since I was working near a bus line, I decided to take the bus instead of rent a car.

I am embarrassed to admit that it had been quite a few years since I had used public transportation. Anyway, I caught the No. 61 in front of my apartment building for a week, and contribute the following observations:

First, I had no trouble with delayed buses during this period.

Second, while no bus would pass the ''white glove'' test (neither would my car), none of the buses were what I would call ''filthy.'' But, of course, I don't think I'd wear white when riding.

Third, and this really surprised me, when new riders boarded the bus, they all said ''Good Morning'' to the driver, who returned their greeting.

And to top it off, almost all of them said, ''Thank you,'' when departing.

Joan E. Doyle


Why deficits must be reined in

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