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Glendening veto a boon to special interestsBy...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Glendening veto a boon to special interests

By vetoing House Bill 615, Gov. Parris Glendening has handed a victory to the big-money health care industry and its executives.

The losers will be primary health care providers and the hundreds of thousands of patients enrolled in HMOs in Maryland.

For years now, HMOs have taken advantage of a legal loophole to shift legitimate costs onto subscribers.

Here's how it works: John Smith is an HMO patient, for which he or his employer pays hefty enrollment fees.

One night Mr. Smith awakens with chest pain. Fearing the worst, his wife drives him to the nearest emergency room, where he is evaluated for possible heart attack.

After blood tests and an EKG, the doctor happily tells Mr. Smith that his pain is most likely caused by severe intestinal distress, which can often mimic the symptoms of a heart attack.

The Smiths breathe a sign of relief -- until they get the word from their HMO that their bill has been denied. Why? Mr. Smith's chest pain wasn't a "true emergency."

Had he suffered a heart attack, the HMO would have been required to pay his expenses. But since it wasn't, the payment has been denied.

Was there any way to know whether it was a heart attack without the tests being run? No, the HMO admits.

Did the Smiths act unreasonably in going to the hospital? No, says the HMO.

But if they had read the fine print in their contract, they would have known the HMO doesn't have to pay for "non-emergency" care. As determined by the HMO. After the fact.

This scenario is common one in emergency rooms throughout the state. And there have been tragedies as a result: Next time, he might have a real heart attack, but John Smith will delay coming in.

House Bill 615 would have required HMOs to pay for care received by their subscribers in emergency rooms.

The HMOs worked hard to obfuscate this issue, claiming that the bill would encourage abuse of ERs. But the fact is that ERs are abused primarily by those who have no insurance.

HMO subscribers, like most patients, would much rather get care in an office or clinic setting than in crowded hospital ERs. For the most part, they use ERs appropriately, i.e., when they perceive an emergency exists.

HB 615 went through extensive hearings and debate. It passed the Maryland Senate 47-0 and the House of Delegates 130-5. So why did Governor Glendening subvert the legislative process and betray the trust of the voters of Maryland?

Hard to say, but it may have something to do with the 1998 re-election campaign and how much money it will cost.

After all, those HMO executives make seven figure incomes, and they'll remember this favor for a long time to come.

The rest of us are just penny- ante, ordinary citizens. Score another victory for special interests over the common good.

Winifred Tabor

Baltimore

Principal's transfer

I am writing in the hope that this letter may be of some help to Brehms Lane Elementary School, whose principal, Claudia Brown, may be transferred to another school.

Mrs. Brown is an excellent principal -- caring, personable, considerate and understanding as an administrator -- who works closely with the staff, faculty, children and parents. The family of Brehms Lane does not want to lose Mrs. Brown as principal.

She has worked very hard to keep Brehms Lane a safe environment.

She has worked with the Bel-Air/Edison Community Association as one of its board members, with the School Improvement Team to elevate attendance, and with partnership organizations and businesses to provide tutoring for the children.

Mrs. Brown cares deeply about the children and staff. The Brehms Lane faculty, staff, children and parents are a family. We don't want our family circle to be broken by the transfer of Mrs. Brown.

Linda Lee

Baltimore

Baby Kares

I was saddened then outraged by your article about Baltimore County social workers taking baby Brittany Kares from her parents because the couple took her to the hospital too often ("Parents regain baby girl in custody compromise," June 8).

The action taken against Anne and Michael Kares was an indignity to them motivated by arrogance.

As the article stated, there was no suspicion of abuse or neglect by the couple. On the contrary, everything indicated these parents cared for and loved their child wholeheartedly.

The expression "It takes a whole village to raise a child" is beautiful and true. What it conveys is that each member of the community must have the courage to be aunt or uncle to that child and brother or sister to its parents in order to support the family unit.

The Baltimore County social workers evidently were not moved to applaud the love and caring of these young parents; instead they saw fit to pull the family apart -- this at a time when families in general are getting so much attention and are lauded as the cornerstone of a healthy society.

I vividly remember being the young mother of a first-born child and calling the doctor a bit too often because I was unsure and sometimes frightened when I thought my baby was ill.

And I was a college professor at the time; the fact that baby Kares' mother had a learning disability should have had no bearing on the issue.

PTC If this couple and their baby had been treated with the respect and support that all families need they never would have had to

spend a day apart from one another.

Jane Elkinton

Baltimore

My hero, my father

In my eyes, a hero doesn't save your life. A hero doesn't salvage you from falling off a cliff, or rescue you in a raging river.

To me, a hero is a role model, a friend. My hero is the person I can most look up to in my life.

My hero didn't seize me from tumbling off a crag, but he gave me something fabulously significant. He gave me self-esteem, love and inspiration. He gave me his time and effort to create a person as happy as I am today.

He is a smart man, for how could anybody not as intelligent as he have such an impact on my life and my mind?

Although he is no famous superhero, he is the most wonderful, brilliant man in all the world.

My hero has opened whole new worlds to me that I would never have seen, and has also opened my mind to everything around me.

1% In my eyes, my hero is my father.

Lane Levine

Owings Mills

Thanks for a mighty fine time

We would like to express our thanks to Baltimore for the enjoyable two and a half years that we have spent living here.

We are departing to England and feel that the help and assistance we have received, to say nothing of the genuine friendship and hospitality that we have been offered, deserve a mention.

Thanks to the pleasant advice given to us initially by the Motor Vehicles Administration, which guided us through the intricacies obtaining our drivers licenses and tags.

Thanks also to the helpful assistance of the Internal Revenue Service at Hopkins Plaza, which showed me the complexities of the 1040 form, and also to the Department of Social Security for its assistance in completing the forms for their records.

We are greatly indebted to the doctors and staff at Johns Hopkins and Mercy Hospitals, especially for their help in guiding us through the details of health insurance.

Everywhere that we have been, from the attention and helpful service that we have received in the stores to the pleasant and friendly manner shown to us by Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. and Bell Atlantic has made our brief visit here a memorable and happy experience.

Lastly our appreciation to all the residents of West Street for their friendship and company and to the many other acquaintances that we have made in South Baltimore -- especially to all in Cross Street Market.

The staff members at the Ostend Street post office deserves a special mention, as does our regular mail carrier.

Don't worry; we intend to return in the future, so you won't get rid of us quite that easily!

If we have left anyone out we apologize.

Thanks again to all for a really great time.

Martin and Judith Wiles

Baltimore

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