CareFirst merger plan serves its executives, not state's...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 24, 2002

CareFirst merger plan serves its executives, not state's taxpayers

I read with disbelief the comments of Daniel J. Altobello, the chairman of CareFirst's board, who stated the $33.2 million dollars in "success fee" bonuses were "the fair and right thing to do" for the management team that created the $1.3 billion value of CareFirst ("CareFirst's bonus plan defended," March 12).

We should all remember, however, that this $1.3 billion value was created over the last several years by continually raising subscriber premiums, reducing reimbursements to hospitals and doctors, raising copayments, reducing benefits and prescription coverage and terminating low-cost insurance plans, which effectively forced thousands of low-income Maryland residents to find more expensive coverages or join the uninsured.

Were these measures "fair and right" things to do?

Mr. Altobello notes: "If it were a stock company, they [company executives] would have been reaping the rewards." Unfortunately, Mr. Altobello misses the point that this is not a stock company but rather a nonprofit insurer.

If these executives wanted to reap such rewards, they should have taken positions at a stock company before the merger proposal.

I can only imagine the number of denied prescriptions or diagnostic tests that could be paid for with $33.2 million. And I am truly disappointed by the audacity and greed of these executives, who in the past called themselves public servants.

Dr. Craig Friedman

Baltimore

So now we have heard from the CareFirst pay expert who thinks it's fine and dandy that $33.2 million of incentives should go to the same CareFirst gang he works for ("CareFirst sale called beneficial," March 15).

Now let's hear from a "rip-off" expert, hired by the taxpayers of Maryland, to hear the real story of how a well-heeled CEO, with, I would guess, plenty of help and encouragement from a similarly well-compensated group of cheerleaders, was able to finagle such a lucrative "bon voyage" offer from such a risk-free workplace as CareFirst.

And one other point eludes me: If CareFirst is in such imminent danger of crashing and burning as we are being led to believe by its executives, why is WellPoint so hot to gather in this luckless endeavor, even to the extent of inciting the wrath of the Maryland taxpayers with the obvious stink of this payoff package?

J.P. Kostos

Ellicott City

Wealthy exploiters inflict more damage than al-Qaida

Based upon his alliance with al-Qaida, John Walker Lindh is a traitor. But how much damage did he do to this country in comparison to that done by Enron Corp.'s executives? They could be responsible for starting another depression, not to mention what they did to their own employees.

And what about the corporations moving their corporate headquarters to Bermuda and the Cayman Islands to avoid paying taxes? In light of Sept. 11, should they not be lining up to "do their duty" and pay their taxes?

And manufacturers who close the factories in the United States so they can exploit cheap foreign labor (and, again, often avoid paying taxes) are destroying our communities and any remaining thread of the American dream.

These rich exploiters have done and continue to do more damage to our country than all the al-Qaidas in the world.

Mark Sebly

Catonsville

In Zimbabwe, a democracy for Robert Mugabe alone?

Critics of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe are wrong ("Zimbabwe election unfair, say observers, rights groups," March 13). He believes in a democracy: One man, one vote -- his vote.

The rest of the country merely provides suggestions that he chooses to ignore.

Zev Griner

Reisterstown

Steel industry can bear its own `legacy costs'

I am so sick and tired of the moaning and groaning from the steel companies about "legacy costs" they brought on themselves with big union contracts and early retirement incentives over the years ("Retiree care fight to continue," March 7).

I worked for a government agency for 26 years and have seen my health insurance premiums increase three times in four years.

Retired steelworkers are no better than I am.

Joan Bechtel

Baltimore

City has had success re-using schoolhouses

The former Eastern High School building at Aisquith Street near Orleans Street is not "reputedly the city's oldest surviving public school building," as The Sun's editorial "Landmarks of failure" (March 8) suggested.

That distinction goes to a more modest brick school house at 1223 Argyle Avenue near Lanvale Street. Built in 1858, a decade before the Aisquith Street school, it was also converted into housing, but is now vacant and boarded-up.

The old Eastern building is the oldest public high school building and is more distinctive architecturally. It is a designated Baltimore City Landmark and cannot be demolished without the approval of the Historic Preservation Commission.

Baltimore City has an excellent record in converting approximately 30 to 40 former public school buildings into housing and other uses.

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