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March 16 Letters to the Editor

Pesky public option

President Obama has just unveiled the latest iteration of his health care reform proposal. It calls for a mandate for all Americans to purchase coverage from private insurers or pay a substantial fine, and it does not call for a public option.

Should we applaud, or at least breathe a great sigh of relief?

I, for one, must confess that I am not entirely sanguine about being forced to shell out my hard-earned cash to private insurance companies that are exempt from antitrust regulations and are therefore free to raise their premium rates as often and as much as they feel like doing so.

Somehow, I had thought that the Constitution would protect me against that sort of thing. I guess maybe I was wrong about that.

Of course, if there were a public option, it would give those unfettered insurers enough real competition to force them not only to rein in their exorbitant premium rates but actually to lower them.

So maybe, just maybe, we really could use that pesky public option after all.

David Laing

Stockton Springs


Don’t smoke in my car

Driving on I-95 recently, I noticed a Maine government Toyota, with the driver puffing away on a cigarette. Now, when I was in the Air Force, we were told our vehicles belong to the people of the United States and they would not appreciate us smoking in their vehicles and so we could not.

As a taxpaying resident of this state and seeing our state government has so decided to tax cigarettes at $2 per pack to reduce smoking and health care cost, I think it’s high time the people who work for the people of this state need to stop smoking in my tax-purchased hybrid vehicle.

I wonder how much state employees smoking in my car increases the carbon footprint?

Ray Bryant



Why chastised now?

This week, Houlton High was identified as a failing school by the Maine Department of Education.

Five years ago, HHS was asked by the DOE to present at a workshop how we were successfully improving test scores. We were one of 23 schools that shared its formula for success so that the state could provide a model for other schools that needed to do the same. This DOE event was covered by the BDN on April 13, 2005. Since that time, HHS has doubled its efforts to increase student achievement by offering learning labs in math and reading and adding SAT prep courses for juniors.

The community, school board, administration and staff committed to make positive changes in student learning. HHS worked with the state to implement programs under its guidance and financial support. Our students have consistently scored in the middle of the list of high school SAT results for the state of Maine. We have also implemented programs to keep at-risk kids in school and increase graduation rates.

Why are we chastised now? It was a shock to find out that we were a “failing school” when we have done everything the DOE has asked of us and then some.

We have made the changes to improve the education for our students. Perhaps it is time for the DOE to improve how it runs “our” education system.

Joe Fagnant

Houlton High School teacher



Rx pilot program

This is in response to the recent BDN stories, “Drug companies oppose medicine ‘take-back’” (Jan. 27) and “Discarded medicine can end up in rivers” (Feb. 8).

My husband and I work in health care. In my husband’s profession, he sees thousands of dollars worth of unopened medication disposed of each month, medications that have already been bought and paid for. He also sees patients who must decide between buying medications or necessities such as food, heat and electricity.

Even before the above-mentioned articles appeared, we had discussed a program that would divert these medications, which are being disposed of, to people who cannot afford their own. Of course, in our professions we are aware of the regulations that would be involved in such an undertaking.

Other people to whom we have spoken with about this idea agree that it is disturbing how much money in medication is being thrown away when there are those who so desperately need it: patients with diabetes, heart disease, vascular issues and on and on.

It seems this could be a win-win situation. We would be proud to participate in a humane, compassionate program of this degree. We know there are people who can relate to this. Let this serve as a wake-up call to let others know what’s being done with these drugs and the seemingly obvious solution. What’s that saying about not seeing the forest for the trees?

And as Orrington residents, we don’t need anything else in the river.

Dale and Tim Quimby



Try taxing alcohol

It’s interesting the amount of attention the use of tobacco gets and very little is said about the effects of alcohol use. It seems to me that the state wants to put its financial burden on smokers, claiming the health factors are too costly. They fail to look at the health and financial burdens of alcoholics.

Thousands of people and families are ruined every year because of the effects of alcohol, but that takes a back seat to tobacco use. It’s just as easy for young adults to obtain alcohol as it is tobacco. Nobody wants to raise taxes on alcohol. Why aren’t there ads on TV about the harmful effects of alcohol?

Rehab centers are full of people with alcohol problems and our health care system pays for that. Some people go through rehab several times, with no limit to the spending. It is certainly socially acceptable to be a drunk and ruin one’s life and their family, both physically and emotionally, and put the financial burden on the health care system, but if someone uses tobacco, they are treated as if they have leprosy. Let the drinkers pay their share by taxing the alcohol.

Millions of people use alcohol as a crutch to cope with the stress of life only to find themselves addicted. Being a nondrinker, why should I have to pay for their health care? Why is it that smokers are taxed for their addiction and alcoholics aren’t? The taxes should be the same for tobacco and alcohol.

Alan Thibodeau



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