Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 05, 2008

Create public trust for long-term care

Eileen Ambrose's column on women's retirement worries ("Helping women think about retirement," July 27) raises an important question our country must consider: How can we ensure that all individuals can receive the long-term care services they need at a price they can afford?

Right now, millions of us face family and financial strains when we or someone we love needs long-term care.

Despite individuals' considerable efforts and substantial public expenditures, many are still left struggling with unmet needs and catastrophic costs.

Long-term care insurance is only part of the solution. And indeed, the Georgetown University Long-Term Care Financing Project has estimated that only about one in five American families can afford long-term care insurance that meets their needs.

What our country needs is a national insurance trust whose premiums provide cash benefits to pay for long-term care expenses.

When we are well, we would pay regular premiums, just as we now do for car or health insurance.

When we need help, we could receive cash benefits to hire an aide, pay a family member who misses work to help us or order groceries.

Such a plan would give more of us more choice and control over our lives.

We must make it affordable to care.

Isabella Firth, Columbia

The writer is president of the LifeSpan Network, a trade organization representing senior care organizations.

More competition can fix Medicare

The Sun's editorial "Fixing Medicare" (July 28) argues that "past efforts at Medicare reform have been diverted by powerful special interests" and suggests that "comprehensive reform of Medicare should be at the top" of Congress' to-do list. I couldn't agree more.

Medicare does much good, but its costs have risen even faster than overall nationwide health care costs - much faster. And soon the baby boomers will retire, which will sharply reduce the number of workers supporting each beneficiary.

Yet Congress just axed a promising program to replace government-mandated pricing with competitive bidding. So an oxygen concentrator that costs $600 to buy on the open market will continue, by law, to cost American taxpayers more than $7,000 to rent for 36 months for a Medicare beneficiary.

To keep Medicare solvent, we need to promote competition and consumer choice, as we have with the Medicare Advantage program and the Medicare Part D prescription drug program.

Competition among plans has contributed to the Medicare Part D program's success in reducing costs nearly 40 percent relative to the original estimates of the cost of a Medicare drug benefit.

But continued congressional inertia will only impose crushing obligations on our children and grandchildren and undermine our country's economic viability in a global economy.

Herb Kuhn, Washington

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

Mayor impedes schools' progress

Is Mayor Sheila Dixon trying to derail the progress in the city school system?

If the statewide PTA stripped the Baltimore City Council of PTAs of its powers because its president, Eric White, abused his position and failed to run the group in accordance with basic proper business practices, why on Earth should he be rewarded with a plum position by Ms. Dixon ("Alonso critic set for panel," July 29)?

Appointing another critic of city schools CEO Andres Alonso to the panel reviewing candidates for the city school board is a sure-fire way to maintain the system of patronage, bureaucracy and unaccountability from which Mr. Alonso is trying to extricate us.

The mayor should step back and let Mr. Alonso do his job.

Rebecca Saybolt Bainum, Baltimore

BGE ratepayers deserve a refund

Friday's Sun reported that Constellation Energy Group's profits (for the second quarter only) rose from $116.3 million in 2007 to $171.5 million this year, an increase of $55.2 million ("Constellation thrives," Aug. 1).

Central Maryland ratepayers faced a 72 percent increase in their utility bills in 2007.

Perhaps only some of Constellation's increased profits are the result of those utility price increases.

Still, I see no damage to Constellation if it should give some of this money back to the people of Maryland, perhaps even to Maryland's Fuel Fund to help our most financially troubled utility customers.

John Miller, Timonium

No need to rescue reckless lenders

The title of the editorial "Rescuing homeowners" (July 29) was totally misleading. The so-called Housing Rescue Act is nothing more than a bailout plan to save the banks and money lenders who created the mess in the first place.

Congress and the Federal Reserve are following the same mistaken, self-serving route they have taken so often in the past - most recently in the bailout of Bear Stearns.

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