CSX-Conrail merger would harm the portI am...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

CSX-Conrail merger would harm the port

I am surprised that Maryland has not taken an active role in preventing the CSX Transportation stock tender for Conrail Corp. The two transportation companies provide rail and other services to the northeast and mid-Atlantic areas.

CSX Transportation's interest in Conrail is a legitimate business interest. But let's view the probable outcome from the perspective of the Port of Baltimore.

CSX Transportation and its subsidiaries have a financial interest in having its rail customers transloading in its Newport News, Va., facilities.

If CSX absorbs Conrail, the Port of Baltimore becomes a target for downsizing. CSX would benefit financially by diverting volume to its Newport News port and its subsidiaries that provide numerous services in that area.

CSX would naturally be able to undercut costs to its major shippers if they would divert to Newport News, thus providing a better margin of return for their stockholders.

This would remove a vital level of competition between both the two ports and between the two railroads.

Terry Fry

Baltimore

Newt too sleazy to be speaker

I have not been satisfied with the discussion of House Speaker Newt Gingrich's actions. It seems to me that neither the media nor the public have paid close attention to what Mr. Gingrich has said and done.

He has asserted that although his responses to the ethics committee's inquiries have not been truthful, he had no intention to mislead the committee. To me that means that he is claiming ignorance, and in our law ignorance is no excuse, especially the ignorance of a high-ranking lawmaker.

Furthermore, we certainly know Mr. Gingrich's basic intention. When he was setting up his political propaganda course with tax-exempt funds he was warned by his lawyers that this might be illegal. He deliberately chose not to consult anyone on this issue.

That is not how a reasonable and law-abiding citizen operates. He recklessly set up a possibly illegal arrangement and it is not too strong to say "with malice aforethought."

The moral universe in which Mr. Gingrich operates is evident in his sleazy attempt to blame his lawyer for the false statements he submitted to the ethics committee. Can't we, the Republican Party, and Congress do better than Gingrich as speaker?

Nicholas Varga

Baltimore

Senator Pica didn't eat that well

I see that you had some fun with information disclosed in former Sen. John Pica's campaign report. The Sun (Dec. 7) mentioned two specific restaurant bills which you suggest were payment for meals. Had your reporter asked, he would have learned that the $1,600 payment to McCafferty's was for catering charges for a fund-raiser held during the campaign of 1994. The $750 payment to Maria's Restaurant was for a reception for campaign volunteers, contributors and elected officials in Annapolis.

Our campaign holds several receptions each year for volunteers and campaign workers. Those payments from the campaign were for food-related charges for these receptions.

Maria Pica

Baltimore

The writer, Mr. Pica's sister, is the chairman of the Committee to Elect Senator Pica.

Official who did good in many small acts

I am moved to write by your obituary (Dec. 23) of G. Yates Cook, the former city Health Department official who led the fight to improve slum conditions in the 1940s and thereafter.

The story of his career puts me in mind of a sentence by my favorite author, George Eliot: "The effect of his being on those around him was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts."

Avrom Fleishman

Baltimore

Insurance industry benefits from limits

Delegates Robert H. Kittleman and John R. Leopold are to be commended for their letter promoting no-fault auto insurance as protection for low-to-moderate income drivers who are "forced to accept low settlements out of their need for immediate cash awards" because of the current "pernicious" system.

What the delegates fail to mention is that all Maryland drivers currently have the option of purchasing no-fault insurance. It is called Personal Injury Protection. One need only examine the way auto insurers handle this form of no-fault to see how the insurance industry would use a broader, more exclusive system to deny claims and withhold benefits.

PIP policies pay "reasonable" medical bills and lost wages to drivers or passengers injured in auto accidents, regardless of fault. That sounds like a great idea until we try to decide what is reasonable. When the injured driver goes to the physician of his or her choice, a claims adjuster decides whether that treatment is reasonable.

If the adjuster chooses, the injured driver is required to see a doctor chosen and paid by the insurance company. These doctors, who have no responsibility to treat the injured person or help them get well, then decide if the treatment is "reasonable." Not surprisingly, these doctors, who perform dozens of these exams for insurance companies every week, often at exorbitant fees, almost uniformly decide that any further treatment is "unreasonable" and the claim is denied. The injured driver's recourse is to file suit against the insurance company, a course of action that is very often economically unrealistic.

Not only is that system inherently unfair, it does not result in lower premiums. PIP coverage was for many years mandatory in Maryland.

It became optional when the insurance industry persuaded the General Assembly that this no-fault coverage was the reason that premiums were so high and convinced our legislators to allow drivers to waive it.

One look at your premium notice will show you that this no-fault PIP coverage is dollar for dollar among the most expensive coverages that you can buy.

I sincerely hope that Delegates Kittleman and Leopold learned a lesson from the General Assembly's recent decision to allow the insurance industry to set homeowners' insurance premiums without submitting a rate plan to the insurance commissioner. As a result, premiums skyrocketed. Caps on non-economic damages were meant to ease spiraling health care costs through lower malpractice premiums. Medical costs have continued to rise astronomically. And now no-fault auto insurance is supposed to give us lower insurance premiums.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on legislators in the pocket of the insurance lobby.

Leo Ryan Jr.

Baltimore

Pub Date: 1/09/97

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