Whatever HMOs do, Medicare will be there for its...


July 11, 1999

Whatever HMOs do, Medicare will be there for its beneficiaries

I want to reassure seniors and disabled Americans who read The Sun's article "HMO to drop rural elderly" (July 2) that whatever decisions HMOs make about doing business with Medicare, the program will be there for every beneficiary.

If HMOs decide to stop serving beneficiaries in certain areas, we want to make sure Medicare clients have accurate information about their options.

Every beneficiary is still in Medicare. A beneficiary in an HMO that is leaving the program can remain with that HMO until the end of this year. Many will then have the choice of another Medicare HMO.

Medicare has information about beneficiaries' options available at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), on the Internet at www.medicare.gov, in the "Medicare & You 2000" handbook and through a network of national and local organizations.

We have also instructed HMOs leaving the Medicare program to provide beneficiaries with information about their options.

The Health Care Financing Administration is committed to making sure that the more than 39 million Americans in Medicare receive quality health care, whether through managed care or traditional, fee-for-service Medicare.

Nancy-Ann DeParle, Washington

The writer is an administrator at the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration.

Pollution, not drought, causes health problems

Let's not hasten to blame the recent hot, dry weather for killing fish in the Magothy and Severn rivers ("Fish kill bay's worst in decade," July 2). That would be akin to blaming a heat inversion for killing people with asthma.

Heat inversions bring us smog -- that concentration of air pollutants that leave most of us gasping and some of us dead.

The recent drought has concentrated water pollutants that rob the oxygen of water. The oxygen-poor water suffocates fish.

But in both cases the real culprit is us and our pollutants, not those innocent natural forces.

The bay has seen plenty of droughts, floods, freezes and heat waves. But it, and its plants and animals survived them.

What has changed is that we have robbed the bay system of its resilience by polluting it and destroying its natural buffers: The woods, wetlands and underwater grasses and oysters that kept it clean, clear and full of oxygen.

Michael L. Shultz, Annapolis

The writer is vice president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Time, individual effort needed to restore the bay

It's a shame that Tom Horton is critical of the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay ("Vital restoration not happening," June 25).

If, as he states, it took "decades of abuse" and, in some cases, "a century or more" to damage the bay, how can anyone believe that it could be restored in just 15 to 20 years?

The 1983 Chesapeake Bay Agreement created a partnership of federal, state and local officials to restore the bay and its tributaries. An updated agreement is expected next year. But why depend on these officials to clean up our mess?

Every day, I see abuses in this watershed. Many people do not recycle correctly. Sometimes trash isn't even put in a receptacle. It blows around our streets and eventually ends up in our waters.

I see people driving large, wasteful vehicles whose emissions damage the air, people using harmful pesticides and fertilizers in their yards.

When will each person in the Chesapeake region admit that it's up to individuals to save the bay?

Maybe the next time The Sun assesses the bay's restoration, it should ask citizens what they've done lately.

Sandy Allen, Millersville

Dump dredge in aquarium to make sure it's safe

If Gov. Parris Glendening is so sure that dumping dredged spoils into Site 104 off Kent Island would cause no harm to the bay ("Fish-wildlife agency sharply criticizes draft plan to dump spoil off Kent Island," June 26), then he should have no problem with the following suggestion.

Let's dredge up 100 or so cubic yards of the spoil in question and pump it into the National Aquarium. That way everyone would have a chance to see what results.

Chris Keleher, Annapolis

Fairfield area residents need the city's help

The Sun's article "Mayor says Fairfield buyout offer off table" (July 2) reported Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's announcement that the city does not have the resources for another relocation.

The city is spending money putting cameras at traffic lights, but says it cannot help people suffering from illnesses resulting from living near chemical plants.

And, once again, the African-American community is being treated like a stepchild, and this time by one of our own in Mr. Schmoke.

It appears that the city will bend over backward for the residents of predominately white Wagner's Point, but has no resources for the predominately black Fairfield community.

Fairfield is but a stone's throw away from Wagner's Point, but is not being treated equally.

Both communities are in the same boat, but only one is being helped.

Kenneth Baker, Baltimore

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