July 24, 2009 Letters to the Editor

Posted July 23, 2009, at 5 p.m.

Runners needed

Things are far from perfect when it comes to health care in the U.S. — in fact, it’s tough to imagine things getting any worse, especially for our seniors.

I believe that we may have seen a glimmer of hope last month when leaders in Washington worked with AARP and the nation’s pharmaceutical industry to broker a deal to help bring down costs of prescription drugs for American seniors. The deal will help close the notorious and burdensome “doughnut hole” — the gap in prescription drug coverage that makes it harder for millions of Medicare beneficiaries to pay for the medication they need.

Now, Medicare beneficiaries whose costs fall within the “doughnut hole” will receive a discount on prescription drugs of at least 50 percent from the negotiated price their plan now pays.

We have a long way to go, but, as the state with the oldest population in the U.S. and an in-migration that continues to bolster that figure, we owe it to our seniors to continue to push for a more level playing field when it comes to prescription drugs. We must educate seniors about other low-cost drug programs such as the Prescription Assistance Program which provides low- or no-cost prescription drugs to seniors with limited income.

I encourage all Mainers to look into such programs at www.pparx.org while continuing to let your elected officials know that we appreciate this baby step forward, but at this late date we need marathon runners to get the job done.

John E. Nale

president

Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging

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Sensible Snowe

A very important but under-reported event at the big health care rally in Portland last Saturday was Sen. Olympia Snowe’s coming out in favor of including a public option “from day 1” in any new national health insurance system. Previously, she had supported such an option only if private insurers proved themselves unable or unwilling to improve service to policyholders over an unspecified length of time.

Sen. Snowe is once again displaying the sensible, bipartisan spirit that makes her so popular in Maine. She knows, like the rest of us, that private health insurers have had decades to reform themselves, and instead have only increased premiums, copays and deductibles while rejecting more and more applicants and claims.

Sen. Snowe understands, along with the rest of us, that only if forced to compete with a robust public option will private insurers begin to give policyholders the kind of care, service and respect they deserve.

I called the senator on the bus coming back from Portland to congratulate and thank her for taking this wise and courageous stand, and I hope all other Mainers who care about high quality, affordable, accessible health care will do the same. Her number is 1-866-288-1495. Then call all your friends and relatives to tell them that Sen. Snowe has come down on the people’s side in the health-care debate by coming out in favor of a public option “from day 1.”

William Rice

Trenton

• • •

Headline here

Revisit restructuring

The present fiscal crisis reminds us that the standard procedure used in government to balance budgets is outmoded. We are stuck in a paradigm that needs to be changed. A wholesale restructuring of government is in order.

In the early 1990s, the State Restructuring Commission was formed to develop proposals that would alter the long-term delivery of services in our state with resultant cost savings. The commission’s report was never fully adopted; it did, however, propose many substantial changes for governance. The commission’s report should be updated and used as a resource in the crisis facing our state.

In fact, the commission model should be explored by all levels of government as a means to obtain new ideas about appropriate delivery of services and the resulting cost savings throughout our state. The time is right to change the way we approach government spending, budgets and taxation.

N. Laurence Willey Jr., Esq.

former member

State Restructuring Commission

Bangor

• • •

Good coverage e

The Bangor Daily’s News coverage of the weeklong “Charlie Howard Remembered 25th Anniversary” was a significant contribution to building the community’s understanding of the city’s gay, lesbian and transgender residents.

The goal of the planning committee was to build on the tragic death of Charlie Howard and look forward. During the past 25 years, many people have moved to the Bangor area who would not have known the history behind the events we planned without these exceptional articles.

I was in downtown Bangor celebrating the Sesquicentennial July 7, 25 years ago. Flash forward to 2009 and 130-plus people attending the vespers service that evening, pausing at the bridge to reflect on the tragedy of a young life lost. Then, 170 gays and straights together, singing for our lives on Wednesday with Women With Wings, Voices for Peace and the Maine Gay Men’s Chorus.

For those who could not attend the events, the BDN provided the sense of hope and optimism we wanted to share with people throughout Maine.

Sue McKay

chairwoman, “Charlie Howard Remembered”

Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor

• • •

Watch for scare tactics

The negative campaigning has begun with scare tactics warning us against any change in our health care system. Look for well-financed ads to prevent “the government,” “a bureaucrat” or “socialized medicine” from choosing our doctor, deciding who gets covered and denying claims. This is all nonsense.

Today, we have the world’s most expensive health care system. It is our for-profit insurance companies that decide what and who is covered. Many of them enjoy virtual monopoly situations. To maintain high profits, insurance companies spend huge sums on lobbyists, CEO bonuses and staff members whose sole task is to deny as many claims as possible.

A Medicare-type single-payer option is just that — an option. Insurance companies would have to play fair to compete, and all citizens would retain the right to opt for private insurance.

Rick Hirte

Bar Harbor

• • •

Speeding a problem

Sara Smiley’s July 20 column acknowledges one of Bangor’s strengths, our neighborhoods. The old-fashioned sidewalk nurtures community and our children. It allows autonomy at a much earlier age. We have “walk-around neighborhoods.” They often can walk to a ball field or the corner store. Our young families get to know each other, each other’s children, and the owner of the corner store. Bangor’s neighborhoods keep our kids connected to the greater community and develop that “sense of place” important to a general sense of security.

Then Ms. Smiley gets to one of Bangor’s troubling issues in Bangor, speeding. I flash back to raising my school-age children. I remember my otherwise calm, banker husband chasing after speeders down our “short-cut” side street. We even “acquired” city-owned orange cones and put them in the middle of the street to dissuade speeders. The police said we could not do that, we were obstructing traffic. We resorted to parking our cars on the street to attempt to slow traffic.

Bangor has acknowledged a speeding problem and it deserves discussion. Some reasonable parameters could be worked out to satisfy both families and the city. For the very short summer months when our children do have the run of the neighborhoods we could discourage some speeding and let Bangor do something it does best – take care of its kids.

Becky Pratt

Bangor

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