Seeking SupportOne particularly troublesome item concerning health...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Seeking Support

One particularly troublesome item concerning health care reform has surfaced. In most proposals, obstetricians and gynecologists are not classified as primary care physicians.

That is why I am writing -- to seek support for classifying OB/GYNs as primary care physicians in any upcoming legislation.

As part of our efforts to launch Baltimore's most comprehensive women's program, Mercy Medical Center recently conducted a survey of 500 women who work and live downtown.

The findings?

Between 38 and 44 percent of all women 18-40 see only an OB/GYN for their routine care.

For women aged 41 and up, that number is still a significant 27 percent.

For minority women and those of limited means, the percentage of women who see OB/GYNs only is significantly higher.

Lately, those of us in health care have realized that women's health issues haven't received the attention they deserve. Recognizing the significance of OB/GYNs in providing primary care to Baltimore's women would be a move in the right direction.

Sr. Helen Amos

Baltimore

The writer is president of Mercy Medical Center.

Cable Panic

In his Sept. 14 letter about cable TV and retransmission rights, Comcast official Stephen Burch states that it is not fair that local stations now have the right to attempt to gain payment from cable companies for broadcasting their signal. He says it is not fair that cable customers should have to pay for something non-cable customers receive for free.

Fair? Many things aren't fair. Perhaps it's not fair that his company has been allowed to make money by broadcasting local network signals that it received for free. Perhaps it's not fair that his company still charges the highest rates in the area for Home Team Sports, when 95 per cent of all cable companies that carry HTS include it as part of basic service.

Don't worry, we are not in a panic. If no agreements are reached with regards to retransmission rights, many of us will simply disconnect our cable and purchase antennas, and Comcast knows it. Some of us will miss C-SPAN II and the rerun networks and some won't.

There is generally no sympathy for the cable industry, which managed to manipulate every loophole in the Cable Act to its advantage.

William Fritz

Bel Air

Good Project

I write in response to your Aug. 25 news article, "Human habitat prevails over shoreline protection," regarding a variance request by Habitat for Humanity to build a house within the 100-foot critical area buffer. I would like to clarify several points.

The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission did not oppose the granting of a variance for this project.

The lot was created prior to the Critical Area Law, and the surrounding community is fully developed.

With the exception of this lot, the buffer is paved or developed with houses adjacent to the water, and the proposal is the minimum necessary; a single dwelling without accessory structures.

The Critical Area Commission does recognize that there are circumstances when variances are appropriate. Habitat for Humanity has proposed a good project for the site, and we applaud and support their efforts.

John C. North II

Annapolis

The writer is chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission.

Car Emissions

Marylanders have endured another summer of severe air pollution -- including 16 smog alert days. The Schaefer administration has joined officials from Maine and Massachusetts to ask the federal government to require cleaner auto emission standards for states in the northeast.

The oil industry accusation that this effort is an attempt to circumvent the Maryland legislature ignores the provisions set forth in Maryland's 1993 "clean car" law, which clearly support the administration's pursuit of a regional solution to air pollution.

The Maryland General Assembly looked carefully for three years at the possibility of reducing vehicle emissions beyond the minimum required by federal law. Evidence showed that national vehicle emission standards now in place might not be enough to safeguard the air in densely populated areas -- like Maryland -- which suffer disproportionately from the daily exhaust of millions of cars. (The Baltimore region has the sixth worst air pollution in the country.)

Questions arose, however, regarding the impacts on interstate commerce if cleaner cars cost significantly more than regular cars. (Technology is disproving this fear -- cleaner cars sold in California today are only $60 more expensive.)

The opposition argued successfully that Maryland should not adopt the clean car program alone. A regional approach was considered the best strategy. Consequently, the General Assembly passed legislation with several "regional triggers," including one which would allow the sale of cleaner cars if the federal government found that the entire northeast corridor needed them in order to achieve healthful air quality.

By asking the federal government to make a ruling on this question, the Schaefer administration is pursuing a regional solution to cleaner air that is consistent with Maryland law and will benefit the public health, economy, and environment of Maryland.

Jane Nishida

Annapolis

The writer is the executive director of the Maryland office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Collusion by Asbestos Industry

On Sept. 7, The Sun published a letter entitled, "Asbestos Litigation: The Road to Bankruptcy," signed by Stuart E. Rickerson of New York. Mr. Rickerson identified himself as an attorney for the Keene Corp., a former asbestos dealer.

Mr. Rickerson, in his letter, condemns his peers (litigation attorneys) for their fees charged to asbestos claimants who receive monetary awards for their shortened life span and debilitating disease. He states that they are in the "30 to 50 percent range."

Mr. Rickerson does not detail the collusion between asbestos manufacturers, insurers and corporate attorneys (such as he) who agreed to a corporate policy ' the strategy of litigating every victim's claim in the quest for justice.

This policy was meant to frustrate the aims of the victims, scare off potential claimants, overload the court dockets and create judicial anarchy so as to lessen and, in some cases, negate asbestos victims' monetary awards.

Those litigation costs Mr. Rickerson now sheds remorse over were the creation of Mr. Rickerson and his legal peers in their efforts to protect an industry that knowingly polluted and knowingly caused the premature deaths of people worldwide.

European insurers had predicted that the average asbestos claimant's recovery in the United States would be $250,000. Although I am not privy to the statistical data needed to sustain my next statement, I am quite sure that the average recovery for asbestos victims does not approach the predicted $250,000.

The knowledge of asbestos disease causes were well known by the producers and the sellers of asbestos for in excess of 60 years before the issue became public in the United States in the 1960s.

Mr. Rickerson infers that the Keene Corp. bought a "pig in the poke" and had no knowledge of the liabilities they purchased; ergo, the Keene Corp. should not be held accountable for the criminal activities of its predecessors.

If the buyers of that "pig" were not cognizant of that accrued liability or if there was not full disclosure by the previous owners of the Keene Corp. then he should be in court attempting to recover the present owners' losses from the sellers of the Keene Corp. to them. Instead, he attempts to lessen the accountability of the asbestos dealers by a plan to reduce claimant awards.

Mr. Rickerson further compounds his audacity by begging for the jobs of present workers while shedding no tears for the premature deaths of past workers, other asbestos victims, their widows, their children and those who are facing the agonizing death of slowly being denied access to life-giving oxygen.

The billions of dollars in losses incurred in the United States were the result of medical bills, loss of production hours, premature deaths, loss of real estate (and other material wealth) and workers' compensation payments ' by the asbestos victims. These losses resulted from the abuses by the asbestos dealers, not asbestos victims.

I say to Mr. Rickerson and his peers: shame, shame, shame.

Joseph P. Kendall

Freeland

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