Don't need more gambling addicts
Your editorial of Oct. 1, "An apple in the Garden of Eden," while trying to be conservative, greatly underestimated the costs of gambling addiction if casinos were to be legalized in Maryland.
A 1989 study showed that 1.7 percent of the residents of Iowa were compulsive gamblers. Beginning in 1991, riverboat casinos opened in that state.
A new study shows 5.1 percent of Iowans are now gambling addicts. The easy accessibility of casino gambling more than tripled the incidence of gambling addiction.
In comparison, the State Task Force on Gambling Addiction in 1990 found a 1.5 percent rate of compulsive gambling in Maryland. If casinos are legalized, addiction could triple to 4.5 percent of the population, perhaps more. Since Maryland has a population of more than 4.9 million, a 3 percent increase would mean 147,000 new gambling addicts.
The legislature's Department of Fiscal Services conceded in its recent report: "Research indicates that, excluding trial and incarceration costs, the social cost of compulsive gambling totals an average of $56,000 per patient."
Now do the math -- 147,000 new addicts would have a social cost to our state of $8.23 billion. Astonishing, but accurate.
You'd be hard-pressed to find any public policy decision that could have a worse effect on Maryland than the legislation for casino gambling.
Gambling doesn't have to be evil
I have lived in several different locations throughout the United States.
To be quite candid, I am appalled at the attitudes of the elected officials and self-proclaimed leaders of our communities here in Maryland regarding casino gambling.
Legalized gambling can literally be a faucet of funding for a state if it is handled with any type of ethical character by state officials. The only thing that makes gambling an "evil" fund-raiser is the way in which it is controlled by the officials of the state.
If, by chance, funds are laundered or tampered with, then the concept is corrupted from within. Then, the state loses.
Come on, what is this? Let's breathe some new life into this state -- now.
Debt brings others to mind
As I read and listen to the daily stories about the inexorable rise in the national debt, strategies for deficit reduction and the pro and con opinions of politicians, citizens and interest groups commenting on program reforms and cutbacks, my thoughts invariably drift to the young people I care about -- my children and grandchildren, nieces, the children of cousins, friends and neighbors, even the young people who wait on tables, service our cars and bag our groceries.
I don't want their lives adversely affected by a $6 trillion national debt with its enormous interest costs. I don't want them to shoulder burdens of greatly increased Medicare premiums or co-insurance costs (or reduced benefits) because we did not have the will to control surging Medicare costs.
I don't want to oppose even tiny adjustments to my COLAs, health benefits, taxes, etc., if a modest sacrifice on my part would make their future financial situation more secure.
It seems to me that each one of us who benefits from a taxpayer-supported program must know some young people we care about.
Think of kin in Hopkins reburials
Douglas Birch's article (Sept. 26) on the cemeteries beneath the parking lot at Johns Hopkins Hospital was thought-provoking.
As a taxpayer, I am glad that state regulations have prevented an unchecked desecration of the resting place of so many of early Baltimore's dead.
I think, at a minimum, descendants and kin of those buried at the hospital site should have a reasonable opportunity to attend the reburials in the other cemetery and to see that everything is carried out in a manner demonstrating respect for the dead.
Even though there might be additional delays, I think relatives of those buried on the hospital site should be consulted as to how and when the reburials should take place. Every effort also should be made to schedule the reburials at a time when the majority of relatives who wish to attend are able to attend.
Too much crabbing, too many taxes
In evaluating the need for regulation of crabbing, it is suggested that the Maryland legislature enjoy a sail from the mouth of the Magothy into the Chesapeake Bay where crabpot markets in close proximity dot the surface of the water as far as the eye can see.
Remember, the buck (and the enjoyment) stop when the resource vanishes, just as the public purse depletes when industries and the over-burdened taxpayer decide to leave Maryland and the declining city for greener pastures.
The commissioner and the Blues
Recent articles in The Sun have created an impression that I have been undertaking clandestine negotiations with officials of Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Maryland (BCBSM) concerning plans to create a for-profit structure as a part of their efforts to raise capital.
As a result of a proposal by the Blues last year to create a for-profit subsidiary -- which I rejected -- I stated, in a lengthy decision, that "The conflicts outlined . . . are in my view irreconcilable. Based on these conflicts, I cannot approve the plan of reorganization as filed by BCBSM. [They are], of course, free to file a different plan for my consideration."
Since that time, the Blues have been considering plans for reorganization. Twice, with our agency counsel present and at the request of the Blues, I have met with certain of their officials to render advice on technical interpretations of the insurance statutes. Rendering technical advice is an obligation for this agency to assist insurers and the general public alike.
The key element is that no proposal has been made by the Blues. There is no way to compare a non-existent proposal with )) what has been done in other states. In fact, when and if the Blues submit a proposal, it may result in needed legislation. Premature opinions expressed by "leading authorities" on a non-existent proposal have me perplexed and have rendered a disservice to the public.
When a formal proposal is presented, I shall schedule open hearings with ample notice and plenty of time for discussion by any and all interested parties, including the governor and General Assembly. I am proud of the fact that I have conducted more open hearings on insurance issues than any other recent commissioner in the interest of fair administration of the insurance code.
Consistent with my vested authority, I shall do everything in my power to protect the subscribers of the Blues and the interests of our citizens. I understand the need for the decision-making process to be an open one, but, ultimately, I shall not shirk my responsibility to make the necessary decisions with competence and integrity.
!Dwight K. Bartlett III
A5 The writer is insurance commissioner of Maryland.