Panel's report on drugs was right on...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Panel's report on drugs was right on target

As a lifelong resident of southwest Baltimore, I agree with the recent findings of a special grand jury that the Police Department is having no effect on the drug trade in this city. The Police Department brass seem to be wearing blinders. They are not in touch with the citizens of Baltimore.

It is very frustrating to watch one's neighborhood being taken over by drug dealers and the crime that comes with them.

They stand on the corners 24 hours a day, every day. It doesn't matter if you are walking with two 8-year-olds or your 80-year-old grandmother; they let you know they have drugs for sale.

They are very vocal and compete with each other to make a sale. They don't even try to hide what they are doing.

I don't know how the Police Department can ignore the "New York boys." They bring drugs, guns and violence with them when they come here. They set up shop here because it's so easy. Baltimore seems to be an easy place to make money from the drug trade. Why?

The city state's attorney thinks the report is "ridiculous." The mayor thinks the report is "untrue." The truth is that the grand jury's report represents the cold hard facts -- and the truth hurts.

I invite Mayor Kurt Schmoke, State's Attorney Stuart Simms and Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods to tour my neighborhood unannounced around dusk any day of the week.

My neighborhood is littered with vials and dirty needles. It is hard to deny it when it's right in front of your face every time you step out of your front door.

I'm tired of being held prisoner by these drug dealers. They run this city. Everyone seems to know this except our elected officials.

Why don't they stop wasting time denying it and do something about it before it's too late?

Gordon T. Hall

Baltimore

Paying less for better health care

I am extraordinarily pleased that Rep. Jim McDermott and Rep. John Conyers and 50 others have introduced the American Health Security Act. Finally, we can get moving toward giving Baltimoreans a sane way to obtain health coverage.

It is doubly pleasing to know that there will be an opposing view to President Clinton's managed care approach. At stake is nothing less than the health and economic security of the nation.

The American people want a complete overhaul of our health care system. They expect the federal government to accomplish that goal. This can't happen with the managed competition plan currently favored by the administration.

The Clinton camp is turning somersaults to avoid a direct clash with the insurance industry.

Prudential, Aetna, Metropolitan Life and other insurance giants have lined up behind the Clinton plan because it expands their fastest growing line of business: owning and operating health maintenance organizations.

The trouble is, the only way to save enough money to control costs is to curtail the private health insurance industry.

Managed competition drastically limits consumer choice of physicians by forcing all people into an HMO on the basis of cost, not quality of care. People who now see particular doctors they like would have to change to whatever "gatekeeper" their new HMO selects for them. Compare that to a single payer plan which would provide full insurance coverage and doctor choice.

To make matters worse, managed competition limits choice and rations care without controlling costs.

A study conducted by the Congressional Budget Office found that even a modest managed competition plan which attempts to cover only a part of the population would continue to increase health care costs at the current steep rate of escalation.

The system injects a new layer of bureaucracy into the health care system while doing nothing to curb administrative overhead. In contrast, a single payer national health insurance plan is the best way to control costs, the CBO study found.

Poll after poll shows that Americans are more willing to pay a tax increase in exchange for health security. But they will not and should not pay more and get less.

In exchange for their tax dollars, people want complete coverage for all necessary medical services and, most of all, they want security. Security means cradle-to-grave coverage for everyone, no matter where you work, where you live, who your family is or what your genes are.

In the McDermott/Conyers plan, the program is essentially the same as the Canadian model. The program would be federally funded, locally administered and privately provided.

All Americans would receive a national health security card entitling them to care at the hospital, clinic or doctor's office of their choice.

All necessary medical expenses would be covered, including mental health, dental and long term care benefits, with an emphasis on preventive medicine, home-based care and expanding the availability of primary care.

Hospitals and nursing homes would receive lump sum payments from the National Health Security Board with input from regional health planning boards.

Physicians would still continue to practice on a fee-for-service basis, with fee levels set through negotiations at the local level.

The American Health Security Act does require a tax increase. But under the plan, the overwhelming majority of Americans will pay less than they do now for health care.

Instead of writing one check for insurance premiums, one check for prescription drugs, one check for co-payments and another for taxes, you write only one check: to the government for health security.

Marylanders want and deserve health security and they're willing to pay for it through the tax system, but only if they pay less and get more, not pay more and get less.

Arthur W. Murphy

Baltimore

The writer is the executive director of the Maryland Citizen Action Coalition and the past president of the Baltimore City branch of the NAACP.

Unfair cuts penalize federal workers

I would like to see more prominent coverage of President Clinton's reductions in cost-of-living adjustments for federal employees and retirees.

Federal employees are willing to participate in reductions that do not single them out, including raises in income and energy taxes.

But Mr. Clinton's plan calls for 28 percent of the cuts to come from the pockets of civil servants and federal pensioners.

The CPI-minus-one formula for cutting COLAS of retirees was originally designed to conform with the COLA adjustments for Social Security benefits.

If the cuts were made across the board, as intended, they would actually have an impact on the deficit. But singling out a small group because we are an easy hit is victimization politics at its worst.

According to a former president of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees chapter in Baltimore, the majority of federal retirees here receive pensions of $12,000 to 14,000 per year.

The cumulative effect of the cuts is to eliminate the ability of federal employees to save for their retirement.

The COLAS for federal employees are also going to be frozen. That equates to a tax increase of 10.7 percent in real dollars for an employee in the 28 percent tax bracket in 1994. This represents a higher penalty than the increase on those with incomes over $180,000.

In addition, federal employees are going to have to pay more than the current 40 percent of their health insurance premiums and submit to pay freezes. Enthusiasm for balancing the budget is high. But carving these unequal cuts into law will push federal employees and retirees into poverty.

Lindsey Bramwell

Baltimore

Life member

For much of my adult life I held no strong views pro or con on the private ownership and use of firearms.

The Evening Sun's editorial position -- especially as presented by your cartoonists -- prompted me to investigate and assess the facts for myself.

As a result, I have become a life member of the National Rifle Association. I thank you for providing the impetus.

D. Laughery

Baltimore

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