Letters To The Editor


December 12, 2004

It's time to break state's deadlock on health reform

It is distressing to watch our state leadership deadlock on medical liability insurance reform, even as physicians continue to make career-altering decisions driven by absurdly high insurance premiums ("No evidence of progress on key issues," Dec. 7).

Doctors' liability insurance premiums are due by year-end. In too many cases, premiums are so unaffordable -- approaching $100,000 or more -- that doctors are opting for early retirement, scaling back their care of high-risk patients or leaving medicine, or Maryland, altogether.

Hospitals and the remaining physicians are left to keep a fragile delivery system intact -- trying to find doctors to take high-risk patients, find specialists to provide emergency-room coverage, find doctors who can afford to accept patients who are on Medicaid or have no insurance and, in rural and inner-city communities, keep urgently needed obstetricians and other specialists from leaving.

The issues have been studied. The solutions are known. The task forces have made their recommendations. There is a general consensus that legislative reforms are urgently needed.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch have it within their power to resolve outstanding issues now and call a special General Assembly session immediately.

Yes, differences remain over a funding source for a program to temporarily control liability insurance rate increases. There's also a need to ensure enough tort reform components to offer permanent savings.

But action is overdue. And these leaders have years of experience in negotiating political settlements.

We need a resolution to this dangerous situation before the holidays -- so we can avoid further damage to Maryland's health care system.

That would be the best present the governor, Senate president and House speaker could give our state's citizens in this holiday season.

Calvin M. Pierson T. Michael Preston Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, president of the Maryland Hospital Association and executive director of MedChi, the Maryland medical society.

Tax HMOs to expand access to health care

I strongly agree with House Speaker Michael E. Busch that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s plan to divert money dedicated to helping the most vulnerable uninsured is "unconscionable" -- and I would add "reprehensible" ("Ehrlich poses using surplus for doctors' rate increase," (Dec. 9).

The surplus in that fund today could easily disappear tomorrow if more people with serious diseases qualify for the Maryland Health Insurance Plan. Also, if there is any truly extra money in this fund, which is unlikely, it should be used to provide help for the hundreds of thousands of uninsured Marylanders not now covered by it.

Mr. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller are right that the best way to address the short-term malpractice insurance problem is by removing the HMOs' unjustified tax exemption.

Maryland is one of only 15 states that continue to give HMOs an exemption from taxes all other insurers pay.

The money raised by removing this exemption could help make sure people on Medicaid get adequate health care and could in a couple of years allow us to provide health coverage to tens of thousands of uninsured Marylanders.

It is time for Mr. Ehrlich to stop defending the HMOs' unwarranted tax exemption so we can make progress on these pressing health care issues.

Vincent DeMarco


The writer is president of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative.

Thinking twice is a good idea for Sun

A Sun attorney in the lawsuit against Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said, "If the governor is allowed to do this, any reporter ... would be foolish not to think twice about what they say and write" ("Legal experts divided on Ehrlich ban affecting 2 Sun writers," Dec. 7). I couldn't have said it better myself.

If the dispute works that way, it would be a meaningful and valuable result of this lawsuit, and the quality of The Sun's reporting would certainly improve.

Richard Tatlow


Ribbons support an unjust war

Every time I see the yellow ribbons on cars that indicate support for the troops, I also wonder what that symbol really means ("Slogans and sacrifices," Opinion Commentary, Dec. 2).

Does displaying the phrase "Support the Troops" really mean agreement that the war is a good thing?

I do support those men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan by praying for them every day. And I've written supportive letters. But I have not put a sticker on my car.

I'm not sure why, except that I fear the yellow ribbon is a symbol of something far beyond the "I want you to know I care" message. And I cannot support an unjust war that was built on deception.

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