Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 18, 2003

Medicare law is the right Rx for our seniors

Today, only about one-third of the Medicare population has drug coverage through a former employer, and that figure drops precipitously for new retirees ("A bitter pill for seniors," Opinion

Commentary, Dec. 8). About 10 million seniors currently have no prescription drug coverage at all, and many others have insufficient drug coverage.

Under the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, which was recently signed into law by President Bush, beginning in 2006, Medicare beneficiaries will have the option to enroll in Part D of Medicare to obtain coverage of outpatient prescription drugs.

The new law will not privatize Medicare. In fact, traditional Medicare is kept fully intact. However, traditional Medicare was launched 38 years ago to meet a different set of health care needs that didn't include prescription drugs or preventive care.

Seniors in traditional Medicare will have the choice to add prescription drugs or keep what they have now. Offering seniors multiple health choices strengthens Medicare by forcing plans to compete for seniors, while providing quality, efficient, low-cost care.

This landmark legislation also provides seniors with improved preventive benefits and more choices in the kinds of health plans - traditional fee-for-service plans, PPOs and HMOs - available to them.

Strengthening Medicare with better benefits and more choices is the right prescription for improving the quality of health care for our seniors.

Leslie Norwalk

Washington

The writer is acting deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Doctors can't raise prices to cover costs

A medical practice, whether for-profit or nonprofit, is run as a business. If a business can't make ends meet, it has two major choices.

The first is to raise prices, which, as Sun reporter M. William Salganik, points out, we in medical practice often can't do because they are often preset by Medicare or because most practices are too small to really be able to renegotiate with commercial insurance companies ("Feeling the pinch," Dec. 12).

The second alternative is to cut costs. But in primary care, we are shackled to very high fixed costs (i.e., staff salaries, medical and malpractice insurance and rents). We can't reduce these costs. And, in fact, many doctors only take home one-third of every dollar they collect.

Therefore, we are locked into a business where every increase in expenses or reduction in reimbursements comes directly out of our earnings.

Thought of this way, when Medicare announces it is reducing reimbursements 4.2 percent, doctors are actually taking a 12 percent pay cut.

I hope the public now understands physicians' anger.

Dr. Kenneth M. Klebanow

Columbia

Doctors aren't alone in `feeling the pinch'

The Sun's article "Feeling the pinch" (Dec. 12) highlights some difficulties in running a medical practice. However, many of us are subject to the same economic conditions regarding employment, insurance and living costs. My suggestion for Dr. Kenneth Green's situation is to reduce some costs associated with living and working as a self-employed individual.

I am such a person, and my yearly family medical insurance premium is almost four times the amount Dr. Green's patients donated to his business ($3,000) in one week.

These insurance costs have been rising annually. They are affecting all segments of the population, especially those who can least afford them.

Mike Kuhn

Baltimore

Wolfowitz's bosses also ought to go

I applaud the courage of The Sun for its editorial "Neo-ineptitude"(Dec. 12) calling for the resignation of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

Not only is it time for his resignation, it is past time. Mr. Wolfowitz has done damage to America's credibility and reputation that will not soon be repaired. But he works for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, and Mr. Rumsfeld works for Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush.

We need to get rid of all four horseman of neo-apocalyptic vision.

J. Russell Tyldesley

Catonsville

The Sun says, "It's time for Mr. Wolfowitz to go."

I suggest, since the "buck stops here," that President Bush should go - not just for this bit of ineptitude, but for a whole litany of failures and near-failures, domestic and foreign, since January 2001.

J. Andrew Weaver

Linthicum

Tougher sentences cut crime in Florida

The Sun's editorial "Not little adults" (Dec. 12) rails against the state of Florida for not having "moved past the Victorian model of kids as miniature adults" in the case of 12-year-old Lionel Tate, who was sentenced to life in prison for brutally murdering a 6-year-old playmate.

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