Insurer should have to care first for Beth Steel retirees

This Just In...

March 31, 2003|By DAN RODRICKS

GREGG GLESSNER, former bartender and intermittent contributor to this modest marketplace of ideas, came up with a beauty the other day - have the "new" CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield pick up the health insurance coverage for the almost 20,000 Bethlehem Steel retirees who lost their benefits when the company took a walk on them.

"You have to love the response by [Maryland Insurance Commissioner] Steven Larsen to CareFirst BlueCross & BlueShield, when they attempted to dump their non-profit status and line their pockets," writes GG. "Larsen, said, `No deal, no sale, no juicy bonuses, and while we're at it, let's replace the members of the CareFirst board with some more responsible individuals, and let's look at CareFirst's charter to be sure they remain nonprofit, in case the greed begins to creep in again at a future date.'"

And, to this end, the General Assembly has been crafting bills to ensure that CareFirst remains "committed to a nonprofit corporate structure" and provides "the most affordable and accessible health insurance possible."

Let's roll out these reforms by forcing CareFirst's new directors to make a humongous magnanimous gesture.

"Since we now have 20,000 people about to become uninsured," writes the world's smartest former bartender, "and since we have this health insurance company, I think they should be forced to provide coverage for the Bethlehem Steel workers - at the same cost (or lower) than what the retirees were paying with Bethlehem Steel. This can be CareFirst's way of making amends to the public, and the State of Maryland, for being greedy."

This idea - she sounds crazy, no?

So crazy ... it just might work.

Tongue-in-cheek reply

David Wilmer of Baltimore was among an extraordinary number of TJI readers who had a strong opinion about the use of mustard and rye (vs. mayonnaise and white) in the construction of the classic Jewish corned beef sandwich.

But he took the whole discussion to another level when he said: "If you want true deli you must get tongue on seeded rye. It is the best meat on Earth. Go ahead, I dare you."

Been there, done that, Davey - once.

Of course, some people think no good can come of eating tongue.

I think he spoke for many of us when, portraying the star of a 1950s television show in my favorite movie, My Favorite Year, Joseph Bologna said: "They're not serving tongue on show day, are they? The last time they served tongue, the opening monologue died. No tongue on show day, get it? No tongue! Tongue? Death!!"

Corned beef rights

We got a few letters about people having the right to eat corned beef any which way they like.

"I come from the beer-geek mob - the bunch of guys who show up at Max's on Tuesday evenings and Sean Bolan's [in South Baltimore] on Thursday nights, sampling stupendous world-class beers," wrote Alexander D. Mitchell IV.

"And every time I'm in a brewpub like the Wharf Rat or Ryleigh's [Cross Street] and I see clueless people ordering multiple Bud Lights, Coors, etc., it's all I can do to keep from grabbing their longnecks, throwing them to the floor, and screaming, `For the same money you spent on this mass-produced swill you could get 33% more of a fresh, world-class beer!'

"But you know what? It's their mouths, their stomachs, and their dollars. And their right."

Of course.

But that's like saying people who eat sliced corned beef at Weiss Deli are foolish because they could go to Ruth's Chris and order a perfectly grilled sirloin.

That's not what this discussion has been about. We're saying the way to eat a classic corned beef sandwich is very clearly and narrowly defined - corned beef-rye-mustard.

This is ancient law, it's that simple.

Everything else is something else.

A less divisive combo?

Former Baltimorean Dave Feigelson, now living in Tennessee, was among many who saw a clash of cultures and ethnic and religious traditions in the use of mayo and white bread with corned beef.

"On the other hand," he added, "an Irish-Polish Catholic friend of mine discovered long ago the wonders of ham on challah which, according to him, brings together the best of both worlds."

Add a little humus and ...

Never mind.

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