A May 15 letter writer reminds me that recently we've been hearing a lot of whining from conservative commentators over President Clinton's right to attend services at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington.
I wonder if we would hear similar cries of outrage if Pat Robertson had won his bid for the presidency; according to some biographies, Robertson avoided combat duty in Korea because his influential father pulled some strings. If this proved to be true, would these same commentators bring this to our attention? Call me a cynic but somehow I doubt it.
By the same token, will right-wing commentators take note of the fact that the American Civil Liberties Union is defending Eden Jacobowitz over his "water buffalo" remark at the University of Pennsylvania? I doubt that as well. I've heard nary a peep from them when the ACLU has defended anti-abortion protestors' right of free speech.
I guess in these peoples' case, if you can't be fair, you might as well be consistent.
The arbitrary and capricious decision by Baltimore County Executive Roger Hayden to withdraw funds from the proposed magnet Sudbrook Middle School just several months shy of its opening is outrageous, short-sighted and racially provocative.
The magnet school concept is long overdue in Baltimore County. It is a concept which seeks excellence in students and teachers. It teaches to strengths. It provides equal opportunity to people of all races and creeds to seek the school which fits the student best. It provides the opportunity for parents to choose a magnet school over a private school.
The current system of school districts, supported by Mr. Hayden and his mentor, former Superintendent Robert Dubel, only further teach to the lowest common denominator student and perpetuate racially separated schools and racial conflict.
While I understand that many in the Hayden administration were officials under the former education regime, it is still beyond me how Mr. Hayden can continue to ignore increasing enrollments, bureaucratic education and racial uneasiness.
I urge Mr. Hayden to retreat from his position and let the school system change. The citizens of Baltimore County cannot afford to let the school system stagnate. It must change if our students are to be competitive in higher education and in the marketplace.
Lawrence A. LaMotte
The writer is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates.
I agree in principle with Mayor Schmoke's plan to require future Baltimore City workers to reside in the city. However, the mayor must legislate and enforce strong housing laws to protect both homeowners and renters who desire to work and live in Baltimore City.
Recently, I made a unilateral decision to work and live in the city after 30 years of living abroad and in other American cities.
A year ago in April, I purchased a condominium through a city homeownership project. Our family looked forward to being able to participate in the life of an old, historic community. However, our dreams were shattered by the problems we experienced with the builders of our condo.
We are now the victims of a city housing program. For more than one year we have been trying to have the builders and the local sponsors of the project honor their contract warranties.
Baltimore City has many home ownership programs, but they are poorly administered. Our condo is an example.
Carole Owens Lupunga
The Free Enterprise System Can Work
I read the "Memo to Hillary: Try a Single-Payer Plan" by Spyros Andreopoulos (Opinion * Commentary, March 23).
I am constantly amazed at the number of individuals who fail to recognize the premise that America is built on the free enterprise system.
The system is not perfect and requires legislative intervention at times to maintain fairness; however, the suggestion that government bureaucracy is the answer to our health care "crisis" is way off the mark.
How can anyone refer to our government as a more efficient alternative to manage our health care system? We are $4 trillion in debt and growing by the minute.
Let's set the record straight. The insurance industry, on its own, did not make health insurance cheaper for the healthy and more expensive for those in poor health.
The businesses and individuals demanded lower costs because our citizens pressured carriers to lower costs for those who had little or no claims. There is no magic in this in that they, of course, had to raise costs for the unhealthy. Unfortunately over time, the competition for healthy insureds became intense, thereby costing the unhealthy more and more.
Long before Bill Clinton ran for president, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners had recommended health insurance legislation to all states to require guaranteed issue, guaranteed portability and guaranteed renewability, as well as regulations to limit the difference in rates between the lowest rate and highest rate that can be charged to any employee due to a difference in geography, age, sex, etc. Maryland has just passed such a law.
A single-payer system does nothing to control the cost of medical care. Some would say that by having a single payer, the government can control reimbursement and thereby costs. Unless legislation is put in place or providers are forced to agree to not bill the patient for the balance, the true cost of health care will be shifted to the individual.
Maryland has been one of the most successful states in the country in holding down hospital costs through our Health Services Cost Review Commission.
This has been accomplished within the free enterprise system, and we have had a federal waiver requiring Medicare and Medicaid to reimburse our Maryland hospitals at the same rate as all non-profit and commercial providers. In other words, the cost shifting (or true-cost hiding) by our federal government does not occur for hospital costs in Maryland.
Unfortunately, all other health care providers are not in this system. The Maryland legislature has set up a commission to study these other health provider costs in order to arrive at fair and equitable reimbursement to doctors, labs, etc. where, once again, we will bring the government into an "all payer" system.
Providers would receive the same reimbursement from all insurers, including the government, and could not balance-bill the patient. This would be accomplished through the free enterprise system with a quasi-government commission to create a level reimbursement mechanism.
Proper protocols could also be established to help doctors avoid unnecessary tests just to protect themselves from lawsuits.
The key is that the government is involved to establish rules only and not to process paper.
The fairness of the reimbursement amounts can be reviewed by examining the amounts paid to the many primary care doctors who are underpaid.
In addition, the fees paid for other health care providers, including specialists, specialized tests, etc., which may or may not be too high, should be reviewed as well.
The key to any system is to give all parties an opportunity to create a fair and equitable reimbursement. It has worked on the hospital side, why not all others?
We have too many specialists and not enough family practitioners. We need more incentives to get the care back to the family doctor.
Let's eliminate punitive damage awards, and if we can't eliminate them, let's have the awards go into the Maryland uninsured medical fund as a way to help offset the cost of insuring the uninsured (don't expect all of those people seeking justice to sue if there is no personal gain; but wait, that's not so bad is it?).
Our current system is a product of individuals, insurers, brokers, physicians, hospitals, etc. The solution is in managed cooperation between all parties. We can't dismantle a system that insures 85 percent of our population and is considered the finest source of health care in the world.
The free enterprise system can work. Expanding Maryland's Health Services Cost Review Commission or creating a Health Care Provider Review Commission creates appropriate government intervention and preserves true competition, which will never happen under a single payer system or so-called managed competition, which will simply be a quasi-government bureaucracy giving all Americans a non-responsive political toy as it creates another layer to process paper and cut down consumer choice.
Dennis B. Mather
Are we heading for another Waco in Bosnia?
George N. Webb