# Tuesday, July 12, 2011: Health insurance, charter schools and obesity

Posted July 11, 2011, at 8:09 p.m.

### Time for care

The editorial in the July 11 paper has the right idea, generally, but its headline, “Why Health Insurance Helps,” is all wrong. The only ones who benefit from health insurance are insurance companies and their employees.

The editorial focuses on Medicaid, which is far from commercial insurance. Correctly identified as “the federal-state health care program for the poor,” Medicaid provides “care,” not “insurance.”

When politicians and policymakers talk about “universal coverage,” sometimes they mean to pay insurance companies that might actually pay for health care — or some portion thereof. Rarely legislators and public health experts have been quoted using the term “care” for all who live in the U.S. At a global level, a few people talk about health care as a basic human right, like food, shelter and education.

No doubt, many health-insured people do feel more secure about seeking timely and preventive medical and health care because their insurance plans pay for much or all the costs. Others, however, hold off too long and suffer more severe and costly problems because the insurance they are paying for will cover little, if any, share of the bills.

All health care comes at a cost. We must pay for government-funded programs with our taxes as do neighbors elsewhere. We live in a partially enlightened century and should start now to pay for universal health care.

Sharon Bray

Orland

### More school math

In reply to the July 9 letter by Edward Miller titled “Charter school math”:

First of all, he’s off by a power of 10. Given his \$10,000 per pupil and given that 80 percent of that goes with the charter student, each student takes \$8,000. Twenty percent of his 1,000 students is 200, and 200 students at \$8,000 is \$1.6 million, not Mr. Miller’s \$160,000. But this math error is not the point.

Since a Google inquiry about calculating per-pupil expenditure shows many methodologies, how about calculating the average per-pupil cost? I’ll use average per-pupil expenditure because although theoretically all students are funded at the same level, the BDN’s July 9 editorial indicates there are funding differentials between state and local contributions.

The 200 charter students are funded at \$8,000 each while the remaining 800 students are funded at \$10,500 each (\$8,400,000/800 students), consistent with Mr. Miller’s 5 percent increase for each remaining public school student. But as a reminder, LD 1553 calls them “public charter schools” so technically all students are public school students.

Calculating the average per pupil expenditure (\$8,000 plus \$10,500 divided by 2) gives \$9,250 per public school pupil. Given this, each remaining public school student has a 7.5 percent decrease in expenditure, while each leaving “public school” student has a gain of 15.6 percent, using my criteria, not Mr. Miller’s.

The point is that it’s not the math; it’s the assumptions on which they are based.

Mark Schwartz

Stillwater

### Poverty and obesity

Renee Ordway’s July 9 column on obesity in Maine was readable and witty, although I feel sorry she didn’t get the nice lady at the Department of Motor Vehicles that I did, who discouraged me from adding weight to my license.

But the problem of obesity has deeper roots than \$1 cheeseburgers. A sad fact is that the poorer you are, the fatter you tend to be, especially in Maine, where fresh produce is very expensive. There are also cultural and educational issues.

People tend to eat what their parents ate. Filling up on carbs may be your only option and a way of sending your children to bed without aching tummies. You save bacon fat for cooking. If you want to treat your family, the fast-food dollar special is the way to go.

As the BDN reported, food banks are seriously depleted. Schools are serving healthy lunches and removing soft-drink machines. All good unless the kids are depositing the unfamiliar food in the garbage. But you can buy two liters of soda for \$1, so why not treat yourself? I haven’t been able to convince my husband, the Southern Ph.D, that Coke is not a food group.

Let’s quit blaming the victims of this hunger epidemic. Unless we’re willing to provide the healthy meals, meaningful nutrition training and transform tastes, I can’t see this changing much. We need less criticism and more compassion. And if you can, contribute to the food banks. It will make you feel thinner.

Rachel Schwartz

Old Town

### Outsiders mar event

It was disheartening to read the disparaging comments from readers regarding the West Athens Fourth of July celebration that followed last week’s article in the Bangor Daily News. Our family has participated in this event for the past 40 years, which for the most part has been a highly original, peaceful, joyful and safe celebration of freedom at its best. We feel it important to clear up some misconceptions.

In years past, the parade has been about artistic revelry, from dancing hippies and Skowhegan Art School students in zany costumes to middle-aged ladies marching with synchronized lawn chairs. The unfortunate violent ruckus that occurred this year was not of our (the creators of this event) doing. It grew out of the parade’s growing popularity among young people.

Rather than participating in the event, they chose to stand on the sidelines taking advantage of the absence of law enforcement (which were not needed before) by overindulging in “spirits” and behaving with increasing disrespect.

This year brought even larger groups of young people to our town (but not from our town) to create trouble by aggressively heckling and harassing parade participants and starting fights.

What happened might bring an end to our tradition if we are asked to do so by the residents of West Athens. It is very unfortunate that because of the destructive behavior of a few, we may lose an event which has given so much joy to so many people for so many years.

Anna, Ezra and Peter Freeman

West Athens

### Medicare no-brainer

The debate over Medicare cuts shows a real lack of common sense from both Republicans and Democrats. A simple change in the law that prohibits Medicare from using its massive buying power to negotiate better prices for all types of medical expenditures — especially drug prices — could save billions of dollars every year.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Greg Smith

Presque Isle

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