CareFirst merger plan offers new revenue and improved...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 10, 2002

CareFirst merger plan offers new revenue and improved services

You wouldn't know from reading the article "Bills aim to block sale of insurer" (Jan. 31) that there are solid reasons why the proposed CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield merger with WellPoint makes sense to members, employers, providers and the communities we serve.

While outspoken critics voice the same "concerns" in story after story, the potential benefits are given short shrift.

Readers weren't told, for example, that Maryland would receive a share of the $1.3 billion merger price - which could be used to subsidize health insurance for working families, buy prescription drugs for seniors, support medical research or address other unmet health needs. That $1.3 billion represents the largest per capita sum ever created by a Blues conversion.

The report similarly omits any mention that the merger would generate $24 million annually in new tax revenue from CareFirst alone.

The merger would ensure the Blues a strong future in Maryland. It would enable the company to compete against larger, national health insurance companies. Consumers and providers would benefit from new products, improved customer service, greater online capabilities and faster provider reimbursement. Most important, premium increases would be lower than they otherwise would be.

CareFirst looks forward to detailing the potential benefits of the merger as the regulatory review process begins.

John A. Picciotto

Owings Mills

The writer is executive vice president of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.

Profit has no place in our health care

The final question Michael Hill poses in his noncommittal article "Hopes and fears fill in Blues deal" (Feb. 3) begs an obvious answer. Of course the nonprofit status of CareFirst "gives something to the community that cannot be measured in dollars and cents" - or in efficiency.

For even if we Marylanders are to believe this proposed merger would improve the capabilities of our health coverage, an important ethical issue is at stake here: Profit has no place in our health.

Doctors, nurses and even hospital administrators earn justifiably substantial salaries. But while shareholders at WellPoint may or may not adhere to textbook business ethics, they certainly have no regard for a patient's right to the best available health care.

Marylanders have little power to change the unfortunate course of national health coverage trends. But we can prevent BlueCross from succumbing to that kind of ugliness and inhumanity.

Joshua Bloomberg

Timonium

Shays-Meehan bill promises to provide citizens a voice

The League of Women Voters strongly supports the Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill, which will soon be voted on by the House of Representatives.

This is a strong, bipartisan bill that would stop corporations, unions and wealthy individuals from giving unlimited amounts of money to candidates, campaigns and the political parties.

The voices of citizens should be heard in Washington. But too often, special interest contributors overwhelm their voices. From health care reform to energy and environmental policy, special interests have too big a role. We need the Shays-Meehan bill to help fix this problem.

Georgia Eacker

Ellicott City

The writer is a member of the Howard County League of Women Voters.

Fatal accident shows need to ban driving with cell phone

The accident on the Capital Beltway that resulted in the deaths of five people is another reason why a law needs to be passed stopping people from using cell phones while driving ("NTSB studies role of cell phone in crash," Feb. 4).

Many studies have shown that talking on a cell phone while driving is a distraction that prevents the driver from fully paying attention to the road. Who knows how many other deaths and major accidents are the result of people talking on cell phones instead of watching the road?

Until something is done, there will be more accidents and deaths, because even the best driver cannot drive safely when focused on something other than the road.

Murphy Edward Smith

Baltimore

Beane case demonstrates some youths must be jailed

Unfortunately for the public, the Department of Juvenile Justice caved in to pressure from juvenile advocates and the press to further reduce the number of juveniles confined in secure placement.

But the news about Tyrone Beane ("Teen held in killings let go in youth case," Feb. 5), a juvenile under house arrest through the department, should motivate it to reconsider its policy of closing places such as the Victor Cullen Center.

If the department values public safety more than appeasing juvenile advocates, future murders and other crimes like those allegedly committed by Mr. Beane might be prevented.

Ned Coyne

Baltimore

Soup kitchen's fund-raiser should raise some eyebrows

I wonder if other people were as flabbergasted as I was when they saw the "Arts & Society" article (Feb. 3) about the fund-raiser for Our Daily Bread, a downtown soup kitchen.

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