Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 27, 2005

Other HMOs can also absorb the premium tax

Congratulations to CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield for not increasing its HMO premium rates after the General Assembly removed the HMOs' unwarranted exemption from the 2 percent premium tax all other insurers have been paying for years ("CareFirst declines to pass on tax to customers," Feb. 22).

As city Health Commissioner Peter L. Beilenson explained in his recent column "Make HMOs justify increases" (Opinion Commentary, Feb. 16), all the HMOs have very substantial profit margins, pay their top executives exorbitant amounts and could easily absorb the 2 percent assessment just as CareFirst has.

We strongly urge all of them to do so.

It is very unfortunate that Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer Jr. took the unusual, and wholly unjustified, step in January of pre-approving rate increases for the HMOs.

To prevent something like this from happening again, the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative is strongly supporting a Senate bill that would require the state insurance commissioners to hold public hearings before approving HMO rate increases and consider HMOs' profit margins and how much they pay their executives before approving such increases.

I hope the General Assembly will pass this very important measure to hold down health insurance costs.

Vincent DeMarco

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative.

CareFirst's restraint isn't very consistent

How magnanimous of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield - it refuses to add 2 percent to our medical insurance to pay for the HMO tax ("CareFirst declines to pass on tax to customers," Feb. 22).

But on Jan. 1, it increased the cost of my medical coverage by more than 4 percent.

Mary Robl

Perry Hall

Reservists' `pay gap' a national disgrace

I learned from The Sun's article "Part-time soldiers also battling `pay gap'" (Feb. 22) that about half of American troops in Iraq are "part-time" soldiers, and that 41 percent of them are losing thousands of dollars through the "pay gap" between civilian and military pay, while serving on active duty longer and more frequently than any of them might have expected.

These National Guard and Reserve soldiers are, of course, risking their "full" lives on a "full-time" basis in this needless and senseless war. Even those Americans who stubbornly believe the war was somehow necessary must surely agree that the pay gap is a national disgrace.

Regardless of the war's purpose and legitimacy, the brave men and women who are daily risking their lives should not suffer the loss of a single dollar during their tours of duty.

And why am I not surprised to learn that "legislation addressing the problem was blocked by Republican leaders in Congress last year"?

William O. Blackwell

Timonium

Bay's striped bass attack menhaden

I read Tom Horton's column "Bay species' value beyond just harvest" (Feb. 20) with great interest. But I think Mr. Horton's comment on the all-time record numbers of striped bass in bay waters suggesting that even "more is better" ignores reality.

It ignores the reality that Mother Nature simply can support only so many predators such as striped bass in any confined system at one time.

According to scientists from Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, striped bass populations may have exceeded their natural carrying capacity of the bay as early as the late 1990s. Yet this population has continued to grow.

As a result, it's no surprise that the stripers' favorite species of prey, the menhaden, are under intense pressure - not from commercial fishermen, not from netting but from too many striped bass.

Niels Moore

Chantilly, Va.

The writer is director of the Menhaden Resource Council.

Bush's budget math opens up new vistas

President Bush's re-election has given us new freedom from worn-out ideas about how addition and subtraction work. Now the result of arithmetic can be anything you want, provided it is a political plus.

We have also been freed from the notion that a meaningful budget includes all items of income and expense.

Instead, just make it look good - or possible.

Keith Lusted

Baltimore

Social Security plan panders to Wall Street

As usual, President Bush is on the wrong track, pandering to rich, special-interest groups in attempting to privatize Social Security ("Much preparation going into pitches on Social Security," Feb. 21). The real beneficiaries of his plan, of course, would be the Wall Street brokers.

And what about tackling real urgent issues, such as the 45 million Americans without health insurance?

People with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease who do not have insurance are utilizing the emergency rooms as their family doctors. And many of those without health insurance may not even be around to pay into Social Security.

Shirley Thomas

Owings Mills

Manipulating news disdains democracy

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