Money MachineEditor: The Baltimore City real estate...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Money Machine

Editor: The Baltimore City real estate tax situation is out of control, the school system needs funding as do many other institutions and services.

Why not legalize gambling in Baltimore and turn the Power Plant and Fishmarket into gambling casinos?

Can you imagine the revenue?

Edward Newhard.

Ellicott City.

What If?

Editor: When the voters of Arizona chose not to establish a holiday to honor Martin Luther King, the National Football League decided to punish them by canceling a scheduled Super Bowl game. This action has special significance for Maryland in light of its pursuit of an NFL franchise.

What if a future ballot contains an abortion question, Maryland goes pro-life and the NFL decides it is pro-choice? Goodbye franchise?

What if the NBA, which is also making noises about punishing Arizona, decides it is pro-life to the NFL's pro-choice? Would Maryland get punished no matter which way it voted?

What if Maryland goes Democratic in the next election and the NFL thinks it should have been Republican? What if General Motors or the Red Cross decide to have a try at punishing?

Carroll L. Jenkins.

Towson.

Throwaway Whale

Editor: The way a dead whale found drifting at the mouth of Curtis Bay was disposed is all too symptomatic of our throwaway society. Landfills are being closed for lack of room. Responsible citizens are recycling household trash. But the Department of Natural Resources decides to dispose of the carcass in a landfill.

If the whale had been hauled out to sea, it would have degraded naturally. The Coast Guard's claim that the carcass might sink and endanger a cutter hauling it seems remote. But the problem of adding another 16 tons to an already overburdened landfill is very real.

The next time a large, biodegradable marine animal's carcass is found in the bay, let us hope that clearer heads prevail. A little common sense would go a long way in solving the problem of solid waste disposal.

Alice K. Reid.

Monkton.

No Comparison

Editor: First, I want to thank you for the editorial compliment you paid to the insurance industry in Maryland, when you stated "there have been only two insolvencies in 20 years." The primary reasons for this are that the insurance industry operates a re-insurance program in Maryland and the Maryland Insurance Division does a good job on periodic inspection of the companies.

However, I think it was outrageous for your paper to compare the insurance industry with the practices of the thrift and banking industries in the early '80s.

The company that I am associated with did not sock premium dollars away, but billed policy-holders for what was necessary to take care of claims and operating costs plus a small surplus in order to keep the company in good financial condition. This type of operation has kept the company in business since 1870.

If the capital and surplus requirements are increased, as suggested by the governor's commission, several companies will have to go out of business, leading to less competition.

Preston L. Hale.

Manchester.

TF

The writer is president of the Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance Co.

Health Care Cuts

Editor: It is tempting to accept the proposed cuts in the Health Department outlays for a few "minor" programs as a reasonable response to the current state budget deficit, particularly in light of the recent election results and their obvious message of no new taxes.

These are not expensive programs, however, and are very worthwhile. Their elimination will not save much money and may be an excessive response to a temporary budget problem.

One of the three programs targeted for elimination on Jan. 1 is the Kidney Disease Program. This program is unique to Maryland and is a model for other states to emulate ' Virginia comes to mind. It is for the benefit of people with kidney failure who require chronic dialysis treatment.

The purpose of the program is to fill the gaps between Medicare and Medical Assistance for those who need this very expensive, life-sustaining treatment. Its loss will cause real hardship to many who are least able to defend themselves because they suffer from a chronic debilitating illness.

It has been suggested that these people will be covered by Medical Assistance but this will happen only after they have exhausted their savings and become poor enough to qualify for it. Many beneficiaries of this program presently work full or part-time and are financially partially self-sufficient.

The loss of the program would force many of them to quit working and accept welfare. Wouldn't the state be robbing Peter to pay Paul?

Apart from the dubious financial benefit of this proposal, do we really need to increase the burdens on the most disadvantaged segments of our community ' dialysis patients, paraplegics and victims of AIDS?

Cedric Bryan, M.D.

Baltimore.

The writer is medical director of the Downtown Dialysis Center.

Facts on Insurer Solvency

Editor: Like much of the debate on the subject, your recent editorial on insurer solvency was a mixture of fact and fiction. Because the topic is so important, the mistakes should be corrected and the facts reiterated.

The lesson of Maryland's S&L; crisis is indeed fresh in our minds; that is why the House Economic Matters Committee recently held a hearing on the issue of insurer solvency, and on the recently released report by Public Citizen claiming that several large insurers were at financial risk. Public Citizen has admitted to mistakes in the report and, after much damaging publicity to itself and the companies identified in the report, has retracted many of its conclusions. The controversy surrounding the report shows that the problem of insurer solvency must be approached in a rational, considered and informed manner, and solutions must be based on credible data.

The General Accounting Office, the Congress, and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, as well as our own Governor's Commission on Insurance, all agree that the problem of insurer solvency is a multifaceted one. In independent reports, these groups suggest a multi-pronged approach to the problem, including stricter regulation of all of the following: company management, loss reserves ' which your editorial confuses with capital and surplus ' managing general agents, insurer investments and reinsurance.

Contrary to the suggestion in your editorial, requiring adequate levels of capital and surplus for insurers is just one of the many tools a regulator uses in protecting policyholders. Indeed, of the seven recommendations relating to insurer solvency being considered by the governor's commission, only one deals with the adequacy of capital and surplus for insurance companies.

No one disagrees that all reasonable steps must be taken to permit our insurance commissioner to do his job most effectively, and certainly the issue deserves the close attention of the legislature this coming session. To suggest that the Economic Matters Committee opposes efforts to effectively regulate insurer solvency is ludicrous.

The goal, however, is to make sure that regulation is tight enough to maintain the solvency of insurers doing business in the state, but not so tight that companies are literally squeezed out, leaving Maryland consumers with fewer choices and higher insurance prices.

Casper R. Taylor Jr.

Annapolis.

The writer is chairman of the Economic Matters Committee of the House of Delegates.

Wicked State Ad

Editor: I recently watched the jazzy new Maryland State Lottery advertisement on TV ("The Maryland Lottery -- it could be you!"). I have heard the ad on the radio several times, though I usually turn it off as soon as I recognize it.

Many radio and TV ads are irritating, but this one is particularly offensive to me because I do not believe it is a legitimate function of government to promote gambling, and certainly not with this much slick, expensive pushiness.

Promotion of state-sponsored gambling, I think, can be compared with a state-owned liquor distribution system that, in addition to selling alcohol, also went out of its way to encourage as much use as possible.

There is a fundamental difference between allowing activities that are morally or rationally questionable, and actively promoting them.

I have a feeling this is the shape of things to come, what with massive debt, financing the new stadiums, a blurring of distinctions between public and private sectors and the general confusion about just what the role of government is supposed to be.

Even so, I think it is basically wrong to encourage people to part with potential savings when most of them (let's face it) are going to lose more than they win. The biggest losers, of course, are poor people, so they are doubly losers.

The argument is made that some poor people actually win big; or as Ronald Reagan said at some point, the important thing about America is that everyone has a chance to get rich.

Confusing a lottery with responsible social policy was not one of his better ideas, and it is not a good idea here, either.

The lottery promoters should look for better ways to exercise their creativity and to finance government.

Boyd L. Grove.

Baltimore.

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