Wednesday, July 20, 2011: Bullying in schools, arrogance on Dechaine, Medicare changes

Posted July 19, 2011, at 1:49 p.m.

Premature concerns

In his July 7 Op-Ed column, “Why would anyone oppose anti-bullying bill?,” Carroll Conley Jr. of the Christian Civic League states that his organization’s legal analysts had concerns about “the [anti-bullying] bill’s ambiguity in its definitions, its enforceability due to creating jurisdiction beyond school grounds and functions, and the lack of First Amendment protections.”

Anyone can download and read the proposed legislation. Concerns about jurisdiction, enforce-ability and a lack of First Amendment protections assume what the resulting policy will say. There is no way to know that the policy will not be enforceable or that First Amendment rights will be violated before the policy is written.

My wife and I have two teenage children, a daughter who attends Bangor High School and a son who just returned from his first year of college. On several occasions, they have witnessed their classmates being bullied and stepped up to intervene.

As a parent, I was proud that my kids were brave enough to take action in a tough situation. I would like to know that school officials had their backs. I believe the people of the state of Maine feel that school officials should have their backs. Why would we prevent that?

In his piece, Mr. Conley states that, “It is my prayer that we will cut through the caustic, accusatory rhetoric and offer a bill in the near future that will make our public schools a safe place for all Maine students.” I couldn’t agree more!

Tom Grogan

Bangor

Arrogance on Dechaine

Webster’s dictionary defines hubris as “wanton insolence or arrogance resulting from excessive pride” and complicity as “partnership in wrongdoing.”

The Dennis Dechaine case illustrates how the Maine Attorney General’s Office has demonstrated both for over two decades. That office has seriously compromised its mission of “justice for all” and rendered its actions suspect.

Starting with James Tierney in 1989, the year of Dechaine’s trial, to present Attorney General William J. Schneider, the office has been smug in its righteousness and self-granted infallibility.

“In Maine we’re different,” asserted Deputy Attorney General William Stokes when I pointed out that in light of the frequent exonerations nationwide wouldn’t it be possible that Maine has a few innocent people in jail.

The Legislature has long smelled the stench of cover-up in the Dechaine case emanating from the fourth floor of the Cross Office Building. When that office steadfastly refused to open up its files on the case, the law-making bodies enacted legislation to open them up. The greatest find in the files was the flagrant altering of the notes of the police investigators to incriminate Dechaine.

When the legislature discovered that Deputy Attorney General Fern Larochelle had incinerated possibly exculpatory evidence, it passed legislation ordering the Attorney General’s Office to keep all evidence in cases it prosecuted. When I successfully sponsored a post-conviction DNA bill in 2006, that office was adamant in its opposition just as it was against a follow-up bill this year.

The only redeeming action was Attorney General Andrew Ketterer’s 1990s firing of prosecuting attorney Eric Wright in the Dechaine case.

Ross Paradis

Frenchville

Medicare panel wrong fix

I am writing to comment on an item of great concern in the reform of the health care environment. As many know, Medicare is an insolvent program, currently $24 trillion in debt and soon to be bankrupt. Congressional lawmakers are attempting to fix this program; however, many of the fixes will make a bad situation worse.

In particular, one element of the health care reforms laws creates a panel called the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, which will be comprised of 15 presidential appointees charged with making recommendations about Medicare spending in order to meet specific annual spending goals.

Although the intent of the IPAB is to prevent the rationing health care (as it’s only allowed to adjust provider reimbursement rates and a few other aspects of the program), its actions will create further obstacles for Maine citizens preventing them from receiving necessary medical services. The IPAB recommendations will bypass Congress and become law without a process for citizen, or physician, input in challenging the board’s decision.

In addition, IPAB will reduce Medicare’s payments to physicians even further. As payment rates to physicians has not significantly changed since 1993, the cost of providing services to Medicare recipients will continue to outpace the reimbursement doctors receive.

As a family physician, I am very concerned that this panel’s recommendations will continue to stop physicians from accepting Medicare patients. Creating another layer of bureaucracy and allowing this panel to dictate what services can be provided is not the solution to our health care crisis.

Jack Forbush, DO

President-elect, Maine Osteopathic Association

Better pain management

Many people suffer from musculoskeletal pain that does not have a specific remedy — no surgery is available to “fix” their problem. They ask for something for pain and we physicians, wishing to help, offer them pain relief.

Many of these patients have MaineCare or no insurance, and pain pills are far cheaper than any other treatment. And taking a pill is easier than any other way — but we physicians also know there are other good options to relieve pain.

And even as diversion of narcotics and death from misuse continues to be a huge problem in our state, MaineCare seems happy to cover the narcotics and yet will not cover yoga classes, acupuncture or more than two visits to physical therapy. This ties our hands.

For patients with money or good insurance we often use gentle extortion to tie the continuation of pain medications with demonstrated efforts of patients to learn to get better without drugs.

I would like MaineCare to continue to cover pain medications, but also offer — and perhaps require — chronic pain patients to go once yearly to either physical therapy or yoga, and back training classes three times weekly for a month. Those who failed to attend would no longer have narcotic medications covered — and would probably find themselves without a physician willing to prescribe them.

This would dramatically improve patient self-reliance and reduce narcotic use and misuse. Down East would be a great place for a pilot project to see how this approach works.

Dr. Stephen Blythe

Jonesboro

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/07/19/opinion/letters/wednesday-july-20-2011-bullying-in-schools-arrogance-on-dechaine-medicare-changes/ printed on December 20, 2014