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Friday, Oct. 4, 2013: SNAP, Medicare fraud and bond proposal


Oppose SNAP cuts

Maine has the third highest rate of hunger in the country. One in six Mainers is hungry, and one in four children has food insecurity. Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative believes a problem of this magnitude deserves a systemic solution.

Sixty-seven percent of all U.S. food assistance is provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps). SNAP feeds a quarter of a million Mainers and provides for our most vulnerable populations: Two thirds of all SNAP recipients are children, seniors or disabled. Half of all new SNAP participants leave the program within 10 months as they become financially stable.

SNAP pumped about $377 million into Maine’s economy in 2012, as every $5 spent generates $8.50 in the local economy. This money is spent at grocery stores and farmer’s markets.

SNAP is being reduced Nov. 1, and all SNAP recipients will have a loss in benefits. This is due to the sun-setting on the stimulus’ SNAP allotment, eliminating $5 billion from the program. For a family of four, this equals 21 fewer meals a month.

Despite these reductions to SNAP, Congress is working to make further cuts. The House of Representatives passed a bill cutting $40 billion. This bill needs to be reconciled with the Senate.

Fortunately our congressional representatives voted to protect SNAP. Call U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud and thank them. Call U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins and urge them to oppose any cuts to SNAP.

Michelle Lamm,

Program manager, Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative

South Portland

Don’t participate in fraud

Now that the Medicare program has tightened up its rules on diabetes supplies, my patients are bombarded by the durable medical equipment suppliers who want to sell them everything else under the sun. Some companies rely on calling lists of people over 65 to make cold calls. Others hire insiders in the health care establishment to feed them information.

I had a patient who went to see a rheumatologist in Portland for her arthritis. The next week she received multiple high-pressure phone calls from an equipment supplier in Florida that wanted to sell her braces for her wrists, knees and back. The caller mentioned both the name of the rheumatologist and my name as the referring physician. The problem, of course, is that she not only was not prescribed any braces, she did not need any braces and would not benefit — and could have been harmed — by using braces she did not need.

What is important for our patients to know is that it is against Medicare policy for any company to solicit sales for Medicare-covered supplies unless they were contacted first by the provider or patient. Durable medical equipment companies can lose their Medicare contracts if they engage in this activity, and I am very quick to send copies of the unsolicited forms I receive to the Medicare fraud office.

I encourage everyone to work to prevent Medicare fraud. It is a great program, and we need to protect it.


Stephen Blythe, D.O.

Down East Community Hospital Medical Associates



Relocated boxes

A resident of Orono recently asked me to explain to her the postal regulations that govern how mail should be delivered to a private home. She told me that for the last 12 months or more, local postal officials have stopped delivery to mailboxes on the homes of some residents, requiring them to install curbside mailboxes instead. A drive around Orono confirms that many boxes have been relocated.

The regulations governing this type of conversion of delivery are straightforward and specific, appearing in the Postal Operations Manual, Paragraph 631.6, entitled “Conversion of Mode of Delivery” (POM Issue 9, July 2002):

“Customer signatures must be obtained prior to any conversion. In single-family housing areas (including manufactured housing and mobile homes) where the residences and lots are owned, each owner must agree to the conversion in writing.

Owners who do not agree must be allowed to retain their current mode of delivery.

“When a residence is sold, the mode of delivery cannot be arbitrarily changed prior to the new resident moving in. The existing mode of delivery must be retained.”

These rules do not apply in situations where unsafe conditions, such as a vicious dog or rotten steps, pose a threat to delivery personnel.

I trust that residents of Orono and elsewhere who are not willing to relocate their mailboxes will find this information helpful.

John H. Curtis

Retired member, National Association of Letter Carriers



Bonding proposal

Thanks to Rep. Archie Verow, D-Brewer, for bringing attention to the bond proposal the Legislature passed last month. The package provides much needed funding for higher education, transportation and our National Guard Armories. These are investments that will be good for the future of the state.

Safe roads are important for our families and for the commercial interest of Maine. Our roads and bridges are in need of serious repair, and the funds in this bond package will get this work started. Many jobs will be provided.

Much has been said about the need for a better prepared workforce to attract business to Maine. The University of Maine and the community colleges will benefit from these bonds. Math, science and technology labs will be upgraded at the university, and Eastern Maine Community College will be able to add classrooms to meet the demands of a large increase in students arriving at the college in recent years.

Our National Guard units have been deployed numerous times over the past few years. Often they have returned to facilities that are in bad repair. Including the armories in the bond package was a positive note, as we will be providing the guard with a decent and safe place for training for any future needs.

The bond package is a win, win, win proposition. Safe roads and bridges for the public, upgrades for higher education and support for our excellent National Guard. Add one more win: that for the many jobs that will be provided seeing these needed projects to completion.

Charles D. Fisher



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