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Health plan law can hurt some workersOnce...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Health plan law can hurt some workers

Once again, middle-class workers are being given the shaft by the state.

House Bill 1359, which became effective July 1, will not only raise health insurance premiums but dissolve one-member group plans being offered by employers.

And of course, small businesses are the ones who will suffer.

When a company offers a group plan, it is offered to the entire group of employees.

Whether or not one or 52 employees take the plan, it is still a group plan. The state should recognize this reality.

I am employed at a day care center where there are three full-time employees and two part-time employees.

Health insurance is one of the benefits offered. But the other full-time employees are covered under their husbands' policies, and the part-time employees are covered under their parents' policies.

However, our policy still hasn't changed -- we still offer group insurance. It is not my fault that the other employees are covered elsewhere.

If a company offers a plan to all of its employees, then even one person should be accepted.

What am I to do now? Go on an individual policy? What if another employee wants health benefits -- does the company change its coverage again and again?

I am also upset by the premium increase. My increase is approximately $40 per month.

I am very happy that the new reform will help those with no insurance or pre-existing conditions who change jobs.

But I am not happy that it is taking my rate increase to do it.

I have worked 22 years in the same job and have been comfortable with my health insurance plan. Why should I look for a "cheaper" plan?

Why should my premium be increased drastically so others may benefit, while I have to worry about coverage for myself?

Patricia Snyder

Overlea

Eager to serve

After reading that the seven candidates for the office of governor of Maryland are avoiding specifics about how they plan to pay the estimated $1.2 billion shortfall, I hereby declare myself a "write-in candidate" for the office.

My platform:

I will trim government operating expenses to the bone.

I will push the General Assembly to raise taxes to cover the remaining shortfall.

I will never lie to anyone, withhold the truth or consider the voters stupid.

Does anyone think that I have a chance?

Charles Johnston

Pasadena

Self-help

After reading Stephen Fowl's July 11 commentary, "A way to avoid closing churches," I have come to some of my own ideas on the problems facing the closing of six localparishes.

As members of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and residents of Baltimore City, it is important that we look inside each community to find ways to improve a bad situation.

As always, prayer is important to bringing hope to the community, but more is necessary.

The Catholic church has always been a church of the people. We must reach out to the people in the communities whose churches are being threatened to close.

The community has to be empowered to solve the problems that lie ahead of it.

We cannot seek help from those living in Baltimore's suburbs until we make a commitment to effect positive changes ourselves.

As the old adage says, "The Lord helps those who help themselves."

Joe Jackson

Baltimore

Junk mail

After years of receiving "newsletters" from congressional representatives, I recently wrote my representative requesting that my name be removed from her mailing list.

She replied that I cannot be removed from the list because the newsletter goes to all residential mailboxes in the district.

We all know that these so-called newsletters are merely self-serving pieces of fluff designed to make the incumbent look good.

And to pour salt in the wound, they are sent out using our tax money.

Presently then, I can stop pornographic literature from coming into my home but am defenseless against congressional mailings.

Between the two, I would prefer receiving the former.

Thomas H. German

Baltimore

Hatchet job

Marcia Myers' article of June 30 was more fit for the opinion column than the front page of the Maryland section.

Ms. Myers might want to consider the following. First, it is tough to make it to the federal bench. One has to come from a top notch law firm. Ask Alex Williams.

The salary of a federal judge may seem large to Ms. Myers. For most it was a pay cut. Why shouldn't they have a perk even in the face of budget cuts?

Second, the fact that little formal structure existed at the conference does not mean that it could not be used for a learning experience.

The Federal Code is huge. So are the regulations and case law that come with it. No judge can master it all. However, the conference gave the judges the chance to informally learn. A judge well versed in pension law had the chance to speak to a judge well versed in employment relations law.

I would not be surprised if this was what Judge John Hargrove tried to tell Ms. Myers. One would not know it from Judge Hargrove's quote, which made one of the state's most respected jurists look like an arrogant, perk-hungry man.

As a result of this informal learning, a judge can make a more informed decision. A more informed decision is less likely to be appealed or reversed.

If the government is a party, (as is often the case in federal court) tax dollars are saved. Even if the government is not a party, less money is spent on litigation. There is less cost to pass on to the consumer.

It is impossible to prove that a total of $200,000 was saved by the conference.

On the other hand, it is reasonable to assume that at least some judges used the conference to become better at their profession.

One would not get this impression from the article. Perhaps the next time Ms. Myers goes to a professional journalists' conference, she should take in a session on how to be objective . . .

As a member of the legal profession, I was outraged by Ms. Myers' hatchet job.

Dennis G. Olver

Chestertown

Lifting a beer to Mike Bowler

As a daily reader for over 20 years, and one of the "non-professional" writers who was fortunate to be published on the Other Voices page, I would like to say thanks to Mike Bowler, who has stepped down as editor.

When I sent my first article to the Other Voices page for consideration, I mistakenly sent it to J.R.L. Sterne, who is listed on the paper as the editorial page editor.

Mr. Bowler looked past my obvious amateurism and published it after making just the right changes. I was so excited when he called to tell me it would be in the next day's paper, I hung up before I made sure I got his name right. I was embarrassed when I had to send my next article addressed again to Mr. Sterne.

Although I didn't know his name I did know that the only place a writer like me (my regular job is in food service) had a chance was in The Evening Sun.

Over the years his willingness to publish works by non-professional writers made it much more interesting and accessible than the op-ed pages in other papers.

You can often sense what position professional commentators are going to take on a issue even before you read them. Their opinions often seem carefully crafted to tell certain groups of people what they want to hear.

Conversely, when you read works by those who live in a world where labels like "liberal" or "conservative" mean very little, you realize that it is hard to pigeonhole thoughts that are born from those who have experienced the problems they write so knowingly about.

I, for one, will lift a glass of beer with my fellow readers, writers and poets to the men and women who continue the great democratic tradition of publishing the views of common citizens, Mike Bowler, Gwinn Owens, and now Marilyn McCraven, thanks.

Joe Otterbein

Baltimore

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