John Fairhall reported in a May 19 article that Dr. Rodney C. Armstead, director of the Office of Managed Care in the Health Care Financing Administration, warned that health maintenance organization "legislation recently passed by the Maryland General Assembly to protect consumers will in fact hurt the public by forcing HMOs to raise premiums."
It is apparent that Dr. Armstead is not fully informed regarding the legislation passed by the General Assembly. The legislation stated that if the employer offers an HMO plan, he must also offer a point of service plan. That offer need in no way impact on the premiums for the HMO plan. Indeed the plans may even be through separate insurers.
As stated in Mr. Fairhall's article, the legislators overwhelmingly approved the legislation in response to complaints from patients and doctors about HMO restrictions. Mr. Fairhall also reported that the Maryland Association of HMOs is not seeking a veto by Gov. Parris Glendening, having taken note of strong political support for the legislation.
This legislation guarantees that the employee will be offered a point of service program as well as an HMO program and that the employee will have to pay the difference between the cost of the HMO plan and the point of service plan as well as any deductibles and copays for the right to choose his own doctor. This is patently different than the interpretation of Dr. Armstead and should in no way alter the premium structures of HMOs and their restrictive programs.
I am glad that Governor Glendening accurately interpreted the legislation as fashioned by the General Assembly and did not pay heed to the misinterpretations of Dr. Armstead, which merely served to cloud the issues. There is no logical reason why employers seeking to purchase the least expensive health care insurance should restrict patients from seeking care from the physician and the hospital of their choice -- especially when they are willing to pay the extra cost for that privilege.
Aristides C. Alevizatos, M.D.
The writer is a past president of the Maryland Society of Internal Medicine.
Don't know what country Roger Simon was writing about when he said "term limits are popular with those too lazy to vote."
I guess it is one where there are no such things as political action committees, lobbyists or other well oiled political machines that are more concerned with self-service than public service.
It must also be a place where anyone can be elected to office solely on the basis of sincerity and ability instead of financial backing and social status. And it most certainly is a place where people see political office as a public privilege rather than a career right and where incumbency is not king.
Until the United States becomes a country like Mr. Simon's imaginary one, we will need term limits to break the chain of opportunists. Call it just another case of welfare reform where we force people, who think they deserve taxpayer money for life, back into the harsh reality of the private sector they helped to create.
Incidentally, this supporter of term limits has exercised his right to vote ever since reaching voting age 22 years ago.
Jeffrey A. Gorman
Pound of Flesh
Concluding "enough is enough," The Sun wants to put the travails and transgressions of Sen. Robert Packwood to rest (editorial, May 18). While your opinion on the senator is open to debate, it is curious that The Sun applies a different line of reasoning for Bruce Bereano by urging prosecutors to appeal Judge William Nickerson's sentence.
Bereano endured a 17-month grand jury "fishing" expedition; has spent nearly $500,000 defending himself; received a $20,000 fine; probably will lose his license to practice law; and lost 85 percent of his client base. Bereano paid this price despite being a first time offender in what the judge termed a "victimless" crime involving $16,000.
How much does the editorial board think a "pound of flesh" is worth these days?
A Good Example
The March 18 story about sanitation worker David Steele was very gratifying. His work ethic is commendable and he provided an outstanding example of how we should all view our respective professions.
As a former teacher, I always stressed the importance of each individual's job in life, regardless of how menial it may seem. As I've pointed out to my students, the most important people in our neighborhood each Monday and Thursday, rain or shine, are the men who pick up and haul away our refuse. They deserve our respect for earning an honest living. A hearty salute to Mr. Steele and his crew. May the rest of us follow their example in our careers.
Holding Schools Accountable for Learning
If The Sun really hopes that the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program does not become just another education fad that fails (editorial, May 20), then it should promote the fact that the MSPAP is not a stand-alone reform program.
It is an integral part of the comprehensive Maryland School Performance Program, designed to ensure that all children learn, by holding schools accountable for that essential yet controversial goal.
If it were better understood and more properly implemented, MSPP would have the potential to move us from rhetoric to action in education reform. It could finally move us beyond yet another curriculum reform program, toward a community oriented approach to education.
With MSPP, each school must distribute a performance report to its community every year. This MSPP Report includes the school's MSPAP test scores, as well as other data of varying degrees of usefulness.
In theory, this report is to be used as a tool to help School Improvement Teams analyze the school's performance and develop a School Improvement Plan. In theory, the School Improvement Team should be a representative group of educators, parents, business and civic leaders, and anyone else with a vested interest in improving education.
In practice, that schools are required to have School Improvement Teams with parent representation, and that the community at large should be providing input and feedback on the School Improvement Plans, are some of the best kept secrets in Maryland.
The MSPP Report tends to be sent home with little to no explanation or requests for comments. There is little, if any, attempt to link the MSPP Report and the MSPAP test.
Across Maryland, the MSPP Report is driving curriculum, policy, program, staffing and budget changes, and virtually no one is explaining this to parents.
Nor are parents being encouraged to see that their concerns are reflected in those changes -- despite the fact that our taxes will pay for the changes and our children will definitely be affected by them.
Educators who fear the accountability aspect of MSPP more than they understand its goals are not explaining the program to their communities. Politicians who cannot see beyond education funding issues are not providing the leadership MSPP needs to succeed.
A fundamentally crucial point of MSPP is not being understood, explained or promoted.
The point is that we have got to change our attitudes about, and expectations for, public education at least as much as we change the classroom curriculum.
So far, only a handful of business leaders and education experts recognize that with or without curriculum reform, the traditional public school cannot meet the needs of an information society.
With its focus more on teaching than learning, the traditional public school turns out too many students who have not learned to their potential, and who do not even know how to learn. Unlike an agrarian or industrial society, the information society cannot function with workers who do not know how to learn.
The key is for schools to shift from delivering an education program to the community, to working in partnership with the community to ensure that all children learn to their potential.
This includes gifted children who need greater challenges, and it includes children whose parents do not, or cannot, help them learn.
Until education and community leaders encourage this shift, our children will stay mired in mediocrity while we keep paying for education fads.
We will also continue our ascent into a society economically divided by ability to learn, with a dangerously disenfranchised underclass.
As a parent, I wish I had school choice. As a community member, I wish MSPP were better understood and more properly implemented. There is far too much at stake for MSPP to become just another fad.
Carolyn J. Stepnitz