LD 1333 and competition

Supporters of the latest health insurance bill, LD 1333, claim it brings competition into the insurance market. This is untrue. They assert their proposal will allow “market-based solutions” to the so-called problems with Maine’s health insurance industry. There cannot be any market-based solutions, because federal law exempts health insurance from the anti-trust laws that protect the very free market these so-called reformers say they want to promote.

Under the McCarran-Ferguson Act, health insurance companies can legally avoid competition. Ask the American Bar Association. McCarran-Ferguson allows insurance companies to control the price at which they offer policies and to engage in other anti-competitive practices. Insurers are even allowed to discriminate based on age.

If Maine eases health insurance regulation, that means it will be easier for insurance companies to avoid competing. In addition, we will be subsidizing insurance company profits to pay for insuring people whose coverage is currently mandated.

The supporters of LD 1333 say Idaho is an example of how to provide health care coverage.  Idaho has a higher percentage of people without health insurance and a higher poverty rate. Is that who we want to emulate?

Maine should not adopt legislation that claims to be pro-free market but is really anti-market, pro-subsidy and copies a state that does a poorer job of providing health care to its citizens. If legislators believe in a competitive market for health insurance, then they should first call for the repeal of McCarran-Ferguson.

Ross Ferrell

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Drugs and government

I suppose there are some people glad that we are going to lose 11 people in the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. But I am certainly not! This is the way they feed their families. They help protect Maine people from illegal drugs. They help protect our borders from illegal drugs coming into Maine.

Some in state government want to legalize marijuana. Some have worked for years to do this. If they would only work as hard to help the poor people of Maine, this would be a pretty good place to live. It only makes you wonder what our lawmakers are thinking about. It’s not only money; there is another motive here!

Maybe it was a mistake to put a Republican governor in office. Maybe the voters should think again when it comes time to vote.

Dennis Morin

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Computers, not stethoscopes

Dr. Erik Steele presented his view in his May 5 column of the electronic medical record, or EMR (“Computers in medicine — better than the stethoscope”). He neglected to mention the federal government will reimburse providers up to $44,000 to switch and  will penalize providers who do not adopt the EMR format. This carrot-and-stick method would not be necessary if gains from EMR systems were apparent and proven.

I have not seen one published study documenting improved patient outcomes resulting from the use of the EMR. Instead, patients complain to me that their health care providers are more focused on the computer than asking appropriate questions. I have never heard a patient report his or her health care was improved through the use of the EMR.

The computer creates a distraction between physician and patient. Instead of focusing solely on the patient and their situation, we need to negotiate the computer programs to provide a diagnosis and treatment plan. The more time we spend with the computer the less time we spend with the patient. This seems to be moving away from “laying on of hands” and away from the art of medicine.

I believe the EMR should be perfected before the government forces health care providers to use an inferior method with unproven results at a significant cost to the consumer. At present, it is an unproven product being advocated far more by politicians and business interests than physicians and patients.

Paul Shapero, M.D.

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Tribe’s water threatened

I found the BDN’s May 9 story “Tribes walk to promote clean water,” concerning the 2011 Mother Earth Water Walk, inspiring and well-written. It underscores just how much most Native Americans value clean water.

Why then is there currently a plan at Indian Township to exploit its water resource by selling volumes of it on the open market through a proposed bottling enterprise? I don’t see anything sacred about that. This has all been pretty hush-hush as far as I know. Perhaps the majority of the reservation is not aware that there are test wells recently drilled on the reservation near Tomah Stream and well pipes sticking out of the ground there. Our clean water is apparently for sale.

Does the tribe really want the council to authorize the exploitation of such a valuable natural resource without the benefit of a tribal referendum? Whose water is it?

This can’t be my fight. This old man is far too old to take up the spear against the prostitution of a tribal resource. But somebody should. If you value your clean water, I would highly recommend you go to your council member and demand a reservation-wide referendum on this matter. Because you never miss the water until the well runs dry.

Roger Ritter
Indian Township

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Waterville’s favorite son

I saw the other day that Waterville’s favorite son received yet another honor. I’m sure it was well deserved along with all the other accolades that he has received in the course of his career.

To me, though, despite all his achievements, the one that will  be appreciated and remembered the most is the creation of the Sen. George J. Mitchell Scholarship Research Institute.

Every year the institute awards a Mitchell scholarship to a graduating senior from every public school in Maine who will be attending a two- or four-year postsecondary degree program. As of 2010, the program has awarded nearly $8 million in financial assistance to almost 1,800 Maine students since 1985.

What’s even more wonderful is that 90 percent of Mitchell Scholar alums work in Maine or plan to do so within the next five years. Over 40 percent of Mitchell Scholars say they have influenced a friend or family member to go to college.

The foundation at the end of 2009 had an endowment of some $19 million and the list of contributors looks like a “who’s who” of companies and individuals from all over the United States, attesting to the respect and admiration for Mr. Mitchell.

What’s most important, however, is that kids from Maine benefit from Sen. Mitchell’s efforts. What a great contribution he has made to our great state and our children. I cannot express adequately my appreciation, and I’m sure I can include most Mainers in this, but thanks a million, George.

Arthur Julia