Health reform tests Clinton's integrityHeads up, America!...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Health reform tests Clinton's integrity

Heads up, America! You're about to be shafted again -- by the same insurance companies and medical providers who have kept medical care from 37 million Americans and who are beggaring the rest of us.

They now spend millions on dishonest advertisements and political action committee contributions to market a scam called "managed competition," which is essentially the old "play or pay" tart in a new kimono.

"Managed competition" has been described as a "scam" and a "medical arms race."

All western countries ("the club of civilized nations") except the U.S. provide complete health care. Their health standards are far higher than ours and their costs far lower. The U.S. is 24th in the world in infant mortality.

The "civilized nations" spend about 7 percent of gross national product for health care; we spend 14 percent for partial care. "Single payer" would provide complete care and save the U.S. $125 billion a year. The Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that the system that best ensures care, choice and savings is "single payer."

The money is there -- painlessly. Restoring only Reagan's 8 percent tax cut for the nation's richest 1 percent would yield over $30 billion a year.

It is insurers and providers versus the American people. Medical care is a test of the integrity of the Clinton presidency. The U.S. will enact a "single payer" system, with cost controls, or remain the world's medical pariah.

Eugene J. McNulty

Annapolis

D.C. statehood

Thomas F. Cadwalader Jr. writes that a state cannot be created from another state without the other state's consent (Forum, March 10).

He suggests that this applies to statehood for the District of Columbia. He ignores the fact that the district has not been part of Maryland for the past 193 years. Why does he submit this frivolity?

I know a substantive argument. Maryland never formally ceded the district with the understanding that it would be a separate area (I'm not sure that it is true).

It doesn't matter that Maryland stood by as its citizens were deprived of their voice in Maryland affairs. Therefore, Maryland retains a vestigial right to deny statehood to the District.

The problem goes deeper. If the district is denied statehood because Maryland withholds its consent, the district could be merged back into Maryland without the state's consent.

Paul O'Brien

Baltimore

Methadone centers

As the principal owner of Another Way, the methadone maintenance rehabilitation center that is considering opening in Baltimore County, I am deeply disappointed in Mike Gimbel, head of the Office of Substance Abuse for Baltimore County.

It is my understanding that Mr. Gimbel's job is to educate the community concerning the plight of the addict and offer different treatment programs for the addicts.

He is doing a disservice to both the community and the addict by playing upon the communities' misconceptions and stoking their fears concerning the addict for his own personal gains.

Having been on methadone himself, he must realize it helps the person start to lead a normal life.

We went to his office for guidance and help concerning the community. Mr. Gimbel needs to re-evaluate his job description. His position was created to help the addict, not to cause a public panic over a proven, successful treatment program for a disease that affects our community.

Neal A. Berch

Gaithersburg

His Honor's wheels

Hundreds are homeless. Many more hundreds go hungry. The sick, the poor, these are the people of Baltimore.

We had a comptroller who, when she took office, spent $19,000 of taxpayers' money for a new car. Now we have Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke wanting to buy not one but two Lincolns. Again, with taxpayers' money.

How is this expenditure justified? And why are two cars needed? fact, why can't these people use their own cars? Let the city pay them for gas, oil, etc. It would be many thousands of dollars cheaper.

What's to stop all City Council members from wanting new cars? There is no intelligent reason for the mayor needing two cars.

Bob Crooks

Baltimore

Kid's stuff

Recently, Maryland senators voted to abolish keno. They knew, however, that a House subcommittee had already voted to kill all four House bills that would end the game.

On the same day, the House Ways and Means Committee voted to quash the legislative scholarship program, which is highly coveted by senators.

I recognize this game -- children play it all the time. It's called, "Nanny, nanny, boo-boo!"

Sandi Roberts

Baltimore

Customer tracking

When we purchase at certain stores -- particularly large chain electronics outlets -- they ask for our names, for a distinctive part of the phone number (at least) and often our addresses as well. To do so is "company policy."

If you insist, you can pay cash without identifying yourself. But in that case, you can't get a refund or an adjustment if the product proves defective. Even with a sales slip, you can't!

Why is it done? Identifying customers individually supposedly ensures that clerks are not chalking up false sales or selling under the counter.

Another purpose is to build up a file from which the most frequent customers get put on a mailing list to receive advertising materials.

Of course. the store says the customer list on file in their computer will not be sold or leased or "misused" (in other respects). Is it truly valueless? And what hold do we have over that promise?

My identity -- how to reach me, and the fact of my purchase -- goes into somebody's electronic computer records. In addition to paying money when making my purchase, information about me gets stored up for some possible use beyond my control. I am supposed to trust them, but what do they give me as guarantee of that trust?

Under this practice, purchasers' identities are being used to enforce honesty of company employees. Purchasers are also giving up some of their privacy as condition for patronizing the store.

If we don't stay away from such stores, we become consumer captives. So boycott them in order to protect our privacy.

A less high-minded solution might be simply to make up a false phone number, a fake address or identity. Maybe that's what the store owners' policy asks for. Or do they want a closed clientele of registered suckers?

hurston Griggs

Baltimore

Mayor Schmoke let us down

Mayor Kurt Schmoke should stop running for higher office long enough to fulfill his obligations to Baltimore City. I have voted for him since he entered public life, with the hope that he would unite this city and enable it to retain its reputation as a city that was moving forward. But he hasn't.

This city once had a housing and community development program famous throughout the country. Do not use the last four years under George Bush and say our funds were cut as an excuse. There were funds that were never used and we were penalized for not using them.

Don't say it was because of bureaucratic red tape, either. That tape was there under Ronald Reagan, yet we had personnel who managed to cut through it to make creative use of the funds.

Our housing stock and commercial strips have deteriorated to the point where many neighborhoods are virtual wastelands. The commercial revitalization planner responsible for bringing businesses into the area was moved to another department.

There is so much ineptness within the Housing and Community Development Department that putting people without experience in charge only compounds the problems of lack of knowledge and foresight. Our communities suffer because of it.

Mayor Schmoke has chosen people to head important departments who are not capable of leading this city into the future. They lack experience and were chosen only to repay political favors.

The sad thing is Mr. Schmoke did choose one person who was capable of heading a department -- School Superintendent Walter G. Amprey.

But then what does the mayor do? He cuts him off at the knees when the rezoning plan is presented. So years of work go down the drain, and what was supposed to save the school system is rezoning in name only.

There will be those that say that if you're against Mr. Schmoke it's because you're a racist.

Sorry, I wish to remind you I voted for him three times, and I continue to volunteer my time to the city. I would back Mayor Schmoke's future political plans if I thought he had moved our city forward.

Let's stop making excuses and turning our heads for fear of being labeled. You may not have been a Schaefer fan, but we didn't have to hear so many flimsy excuses then as we do now.

Lois Munchel

Baltimore

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