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August 25 Letters to the Editor

Government’s share

Having been in health care for 33 years, I agree the system needs some changes. Unfortunately, what the federal and state governments have failed to realize is that they are a major cause of the current problem. If they would pay their full fair share, everyone else’s cost would decrease.

Medicare and Medicaid do not pay the full cost of the health care services they buy for their clients. As a result, health care providers have to mark up their prices to the private consumer to make up the difference. If governments paid the same price as private individuals, then the consumer’s prices would drop dramatically. This cost shifting has amounted to hidden tax on the insured for decades.

Don’t blame the insurance companies for the cost of care; they are just payment processing centers. Only when governments begin paying its full fair share will we see consumer prices go down, which in turn will lower insurance premiums. Demand this of your elected representatives.

Philip A. Cyr


Caribou Rehab and Nursing Center

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Who to believe?

Who do we believe? We are being told that national health care is the best thing since sliced bread. But wait. We are also being told that national health care will financially and medically put us into ruin.

Someone must be lying to us! We have elected people into office to ensure that we are not led down the garden path. Is this being done or are we just pawns in the political game of which side wins? Wouldn’t it be nice if once someone is elected to office, he or she would no longer be a Democrat or Republican, and instead be a representative of the people, not a political party?

If we cannot believe or trust the people who are representing us, what are we to do? It seems to me that our elected officials from the top on down are being directed from somewhere other than those who elected them. “We the people” doesn’t seem to matter the way it was intended.

Timothy Smyth


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Blanchard respectful

I have had the honor and the pleasure of serving with Rep. Richard Blanchard for the past five years. During the last session, Rep. Blanchard and I were “seat mates.” Our desks on the floor of the House of Representatives are right beside each other and we converse every day.

Dick is always one of the first to arrive at the State House in the morning and is always prepared on the issues of the day. He is especially passionate about being a member of the Utilities and Energy Committee, where he champions alternative energy.

When he rises from his seat to speak on the House floor, he is respectful and informative. He often shares with me issues he may be working on to help his constituents in Old Town, the Penobscot Nation and District 14. I find him committed in his quest to help his constituents.

Rep. Blanchard admitted that he made a mistake by having fireworks at his camp and he has accepted responsibility. I look forward to working with Rep.

Rep. Linda Valentino


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Railroad consequences

The unsurprising decision of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway to pursue abandonment of nearly half its tracks in Maine is another harbinger of the need for public sector involvement in ownership and maintenance of uneconomic light-density lines judged to have socioeconomic value. An already downsized New England rail network faces further contraction as freight traffic from a declining industrial base dwindles. Insufficient revenues to maintain costly infrastructure inevitably lead to a downward spiral of reduced train speeds and reliability of service.

Growing public and political sentiment for shifting more traffic from highway to rail to ease vehicular congestion, reduce road maintenance, improve fuel efficiency and alleviate air and noise pollution therefore will require a commensurate commitment from state budgets. The reality is that all remaining routes in northern New England are economically fragile, and MM&A should be commended for calling attention to its 241-mile problem before the cost of constructive intervention becomes prohibitive.

It’s no coincidence that this action follows a special exemption from federal engineering standards obtained by Maine’s congressional delegation for the northern portion of I-95, thereby undercutting the rail option by allowing overweight trucks on a route roughly paralleling MM&A’s threatened corridor. Will that decision have unintended consequences?

Politicians should stop hallucinating about expanded passenger services and “high-speed rail” (both requiring heavy subsidies) until they decide which active segments of the existing system merit preservation assistance. A pending independent update of the State Rail Plan should help to establish coherent legislative priorities.

George C. Betke, Jr.


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Boost drug education

As a graduate student pursuing a career in mental health counseling, I am concerned about the future of substance abuse treatment and prevention in our state. The rates of drug use in Maine are on the rise and are branching out in severity. The age in which experimentation with drugs and alcohol begins is getting younger.

I am challenging our politicians to put into place a program beginning with our youth in the school systems. I understand our schools have many other significant pressures given the current economy, but it has been shown that preventive and educational programs are effective in decreasing the chances an individual will experiment with drugs or alcohol during the year that they are exposed to such a program.

Unfortunately, it appears we need to maintain this education as the children progress in grades as opposed to a one-shot deal (I, for example, was exposed to the D.A.R.E. program in the fifth grade and received no further training to that extent until my graduate career).

My challenge to our politicians suggests implementation on a statewide level to include a progressive prevention program taught in the schools each year. This will enable the youth to remain fully educated on the latest and most current drug trends in addition to the implications on their future that illegal drug activity or alcohol abuse can lead to.

Courtney Evans


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