Feb. 15 Letters to the Editor

Posted Feb. 14, 2010, at 6:37 p.m.

Pass the darn bill

Some health insurance facts from Sen. Olympia Snowe: Since the failed reform effort of 1993, 10 million more Americans have lost their health insurance. The health and finances of 70 million Americans are at risk due to lack of health insurance. Over the last decade, insurance premiums have increased 131 percent — more than three times the increase in workers’ wages. Eighty-one percent of the uninsured are employed.

Employment-based family coverage is expected to rise from $12,680 to $19,000 per year by 2016.

An assessment of the health care reform bill from Kevin Drum at Mother Jones: Insurers must insure those with pre-existing conditions and cannot terminate policies as a result of illness or job loss. It has a community rating system to ensure that everyone is charged the same. The bill expands Medicaid; provides subsidies to keep premiums under 10 percent of income for low- and middle-income Americans; limits emergency room charges to low-income uninsured emergency patients; mandates minimum levels of coverage and caps out-of-pocket expenses. And, the bill has numerous cost-containment measures as well as a dedicated revenue stream.

This is not socialism. It is a capitalist system’s effort to contain costs and give a nod to social justice. This bill offers some things to make insurance companies more responsive and responsible in the part we allow them to play. It is a pretty good start.

Agree on some of this? Call Sens. Snowe and Collins, and Reps. Pingree and Michaud and tell them to pass the darn bill.

Sydney Taber

Unity

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Wheeler-gate tapes

As I understand it, in Maine only one party needs notification that a conversation is being recorded, and that if you are a party to that conversation, it counts; therefore, it shouldn’t be illegal to record any meeting that you are a party to. College students often record lectures; is the professor aware of every recording in a room of 400?

I think that considering Bangor City Councilor Hal Wheeler did nothing illegal, his “admonishment” for recording a conversation with government officials speaks more to the council than it does himself: government in a democracy should be transparent, and criticism of anyone that tries to provide such transparency is not only suspicious but sets dangerous precedent.

Considering other recent actions of the council (to get rid of a seemingly successful city manager who has helped make Bangor a destination for businesses, shoppers, and tourists from around the region), I really have misgivings about their motivations and hope that whatever is going on behind the scenes is ultimately in the best interests of the residents of Bangor.

Eric Taylor

Bangor

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More than press release

Sen. Olympia Snowe, in response to the recent Supreme Court decision lifting the ban on certain political advertisements by corporations and labor unions, is right in expressing her opinion that the “decision was a serious disservice to our country.” In her press release, she stated: “The effects of the decision will be to undermine existing law, flood the airwaves with corporate and union advertisements, and undercut landmark reforms that I and many others fought to secure to put elections back in the hands of the American people.”

We now ask Sen. Snowe to back up these words with action. Will she now sponsor and advocate a bill that reverses this ruling? These days it appears that Washington is always quick to give words of outrage or support, but has stopped getting anything done. Reforms of the health care system, financial regulatory system and job incentives get stopped on the Senate floor by the wall of no votes coming from the Republicans, including our two senators.

Seventeen others, from Belfast to Bristol, signed this letter. We meet monthly at a salon for political learning and dialogue.

Sen. Snowe issued this press release. Will she do anything more?

Maura Melley

Tenants Harbor

Susan Richardson

Washington

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Gun paranoia

For whatever reason, we have a segment of society who are paranoid about law-abiding citizens carrying firearms. This includes Rep. Hannah Pingree, as well as, apparently, the Bangor Daily News (as expressed in a recent editorial).

Because armed law-abiding citizens pose no threat whatsoever to anyone other than the criminal element, this paranoia is irrational at best. Rather than create criminal-enabled zones like gun free parks, etc., we should be promoting the lawful use of firearms by responsible citizens to protect against the criminal element.

No law-abiding citizen should have to check their constitutional rights at the gate. If it is true that the pen is mightier than the sword, perhaps members of the media wouldn’t mind leaving their pens, paper, recorders and cameras at the gate…huh? Of course they’d mind, but one of our rights is just as important as another.

At any rate, I do hope these paranoid folks seek treatment for their affliction, especially since they drive around in a far deadlier contraption, the automobile. Are automobiles to be banned also? Or is there some hypocrisy going on here?

Convicted criminals are allowed to drive, but not possess firearms. So criminals are allowed in parks, but the law-abiding citizen isn’t allowed a firearm for defense of self and family in parks? That is nothing short of bizarre.

Ken Durkee

Charleston

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Health care pain

A true tale of health care, or its lack: It’s about my barber. She grimaced noticeably, favoring her shoulder as she wielded comb and clippers while cutting my hair. Now in her mid-20s, she had injured her shoulder years ago in a car crash. Uninsured then, and, like many of the uninsured, she chose to “live with it,” rather than having the injury attended to. In pain, she eventually saw a doctor who referred her to orthopedic care, which would have included radiographic imaging, some relatively noninvasive intervention (arthroscopy) and probably a few sessions of physical therapy — with reasonable expectation of good outcome, for modest cost. But lacking insurance, out-of-pocket cost was still beyond her reach, so again, she chose to “live with it.”

Now, years later, she shows effects of delayed care for this commonplace injury: threatened loss of function, and possible loss of livelihood, if she goes on to develop “frozen shoulder.” Effective treatment is still feasible, but she now has a “pre-existent condition,” so even if she acquires insurance, coverage for the shoulder would be excluded, not without accelerated premium. So effective treatment remains beyond her reach, as in the nursery rhyme, “for want of a nail, the shoe was lost.”

Troubling in its simple banality, this same tale happens daily. Everyone can relate to it, even those who would fling tea bags at the whole system. Until their own shoulders begin to ache.

Paul R. Mazur, M.D, MPH

Doctors for America

Northport

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