Monday, March 12, 2012: Health insurance, Angus King and clean elections

Posted March 11, 2012, at 5:52 p.m.

Last loss for Anthem

An article in the Feb. 29 Bangor Daily News reported on the appeal by Anthem Health Plans of Maine to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Anthem asked the court to override the decision of Maine’s Bureau of Insurance to deny a premium rate increase of 9.2 percent.

The state’s Insurance Superintendent Mila Kofman allowed an increase of just 5.2 percent. The lower increase (5.2 percent) was deemed to be fair and adequate to the insurance carrier. The court upheld the superintendent’s decision and did not allow an increase higher than 5.2 percent.

In the future, this may not be an issue since in 2011 the Legislature passed a health care reform law that prohibits Maine’s Bureau of Insurance from denying an insurance rate increase that does not exceed 10 percent. This decision was shortsighted and is damaging to Maine citizens.

This portion of Maine’s health reform law must be repealed for the sake of Maine residents who already pay exorbitant health insurance premiums. All Maine residents should be encouraged to contact their state representatives to demand this law be changed.

Anthony Filauro

Millinocket

King doesn’t measure up

If Olympia Snowe, with all her Senate and House connections, can’t alter the tone in the Senate, how is an independent former governor from Maine supposed to change things?

What can he realistically hope to accomplish? Are the Republicans going to pay any attention to a proponent of wind power? Will he somehow convince the party of Big Oil to embrace renewable resources?

He hopes to become a power broker, but he could end up as irrelevant as Joe Lieberman. That may serve Angus King’s interests, but will it serve Maine’s?

Angus served a long time ago, during a different economy, and won against weak candidates. If changing the tone and climate in Washington was so important, why didn’t he jump into the race before Olympia dropped out? Is that his idea of leadership, jumping in when it’s a much easier race?

Angus has a lot of questions to answer. Charm only gets Maine so far. Tough times demand more leadership than ex-Gov. King has demonstrated.

Robert R. O’Brien

Peaks Island

Cushing is wrong

Rep. Andre Cushing, a longtime foe of Maine’s citizen-initiated clean election system, has his facts wrong in his March 6 Op-Ed article.

After a court struck down the matching funds system — a part of the law that allowed candidates who faced big-spending opponents to be heard — the nonpartisan Ethics Commission came up with a good alternative. It is the “requalifying option” that would allow candidates in these tough races to receive funds to supplement their modest clean election distributions if they pass an additional threshold of support from local voters.

Cushing is dead wrong about the cost of this program and the size of distributions to candidates. It is a budget-neutral proposal that caps the amount that any candidate may receive at a lower amount than under the matching funds system.

The Legislature should strengthen clean elections by passing this common sense reform. Rep. Cushing is one of the 20 percent of candidates who still rely on private donations to fund his campaigns, and he usually raises more than anyone else. That is his choice.

But in advocating for weakening our first-in-the-nation clean election System, Cushing now wants to take away a choice that has been proven to be good for the 80 percent who prefer to say no to special interests.

Weakening clean elections is a bad choice for Maine.

Fern Stearns

Orland

Bullying protection needed

Bullying in schools is by no means a new problem. However, technology has dramatically changed the face of bullying. Text messaging and social networking sites make it difficult, if not impossible, to find relief from bullying and its damaging effects.

This is why it is crucial that Maine schools address bullying head-on. The passage of LD 1237, “An Act to Prohibit Bullying and Cyberbullying in Schools,” would prohibit bullying and help protect Maine children.

Sometimes the impact of bullying is tragically visible, as in the cases of bullying victims nationwide who have committed suicide in the last several years. However, many consequences of bullying are considerably less obvious. The National School Safety Center has called bullying “the most enduring and underrated problem in U.S. schools.” Victims of bullying may experience depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, decreased academic performance and chronic absenteeism. The effects may also last for years and negatively impact adult relationships.

Common sense dictates that Maine schools would seek to protect students from bullying and its negative consequences. LD 1237 would set a minimum requirement that all schools have a policy that prohibits bullying. The policy would be developed at the local level with input from parents, teachers and community members. Additional requirements of LD 1237 include training for educators on how to deal with bullying and that teachers report and address all bullying incidents. Please contact your state representative and urge him or her to support LD 1237 so all Maine children receive protection from bullying.

Melanie Rockefeller

Orono

Clean works, so save it

I respectfully disagree with Rep. Andre Cushing about the value of Maine’s Clean Election system (“Maine Clean Elections system hits speed bump,” BDN Op-Ed, March 5).

For over a decade, clean elections has provided hundreds of Maine people the opportunity to run for office without doing the dreaded money dance that defines campaigns almost everywhere else. Eighty percent of the current legislature used clean elections to win their seat, and many good legislators would not have run without it. In the 2010 election, the strongest participation was in the Republican Senate caucus, but Democrats and others used the system in strong numbers, too.

Despite the few problems that Rep. Cushing mentions, clean elections has enjoyed a remarkably successful run for more than 10 years. The issues that he mentioned have all been corrected with responsible, bipartisan legislative action.

Today, the 125th Legislature must respond to a problem created, not by a candidate, but by a court — the same Supreme Court that brought us Citizens United. In striking down matching funds, the court stripped away an integral part of the law — the part that has allowed clean elections to work for all the candidates who wanted to use it. Lawmakers should adopt the “requalifying” option that was recommended by the Ethics Commission and endorsed by advocates from across the political spectrum.

Maine has always led when it comes to clean elections. Leadership is what we need today, and I call upon our elected leaders to pass the requalifying option and keep our clean election law strong.

Ann Luther

Trenton

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/03/11/opinion/monday-march-12-2012-health-insurance-angus-king-and-clean-elections/ printed on October 23, 2014