LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Physicians face continuing crisis of rising costs

The Sun's editorial "When a crisis meets reality" (Aug. 23) was right on target in its assessment that Maryland's economic environment for physicians remains perilously unstable because of high costs and low reimbursement rates.

The result is an undesirable climate for recruiting and retaining physician talent, especially in certain specialties such as primary care and general surgery.

And this means there is still much work to do in reforming Maryland's liability system and our physician payment rules, which favor the giant HMOs.

While it is good news for physicians insured by Medical Mutual Liability Insurance Society of Maryland that its claims payments have stabilized for the moment (at a level nearly 60 percent higher than four years ago), the growth of liability and other costs of medical practice in Maryland continues to outpace the growth of physician reimbursements by more than 3-to-1.

Maryland ranks in the bottom 25 percent of states for insurance reimbursement rates for physicians, according to the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC).

Overall payments to physicians grew at about 4 percent from 1999 to 2003, according the MHCC, while costs, as measured by the Medical Economic Index, grew by more than 12 percent during the same period. And the large malpractice rate increases that took effect in 2004 and 2005 are not even in the MHCC's 1999-2003 cost picture.

A survey released this month by the American Medical Group Association, which primarily represents large physician practices, showed that the average physician practice in our region typically is operating at a loss of $750 to $1,300 per physician.

Physicians appreciate the steps the General Assembly has taken to slow the malpractice crisis, but we have always seen the change as a first step.

MedChi will continue to work to reform Maryland's tort system and to improve an unfair reimbursement system.

Dr. Willarda V. Edwards

Baltimore

The writer is president of MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society.

Staying the course will add to death toll

William E. Connolly's call to break the silence could not have been timelier ("Time to break the silence," Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 22). President Bush spoke the same day to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and manufactured yet another justification for his failed war ("Bush defends Iraq policies, notes debt to fallen troops," Aug. 23).

With Mr. Bush's lies and delusions exposed on weapons of mass destruction, bringing democracy to the Middle East and fighting terrorists abroad so they won't strengthen and revisit America, he now insists that America "stay the course" to honor American soldiers who have already died.

The principal result, of course, will be even more dead who need to be honored.

Death will thus feed upon death in a vicious patriotic circle that forever returns to Mr. Bush's blood-stained hands.

Steven Johnston

Washington

Time for Congress to break its silence

William E. Connolly makes good points in "Time to break the silence" (Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 22), if one has been silent.

But as for me, I was in the streets of Washington at least three times before the war began. I went to Congress days before we attacked Iraq trying to stop the impending "shock and awe."

I wept when I knew there was nothing we could do to stop the crimes being committed in our names. And you can be sure my congressional representatives will see me again this September, and they will have some explaining to do.

It is time for Congress to break the silence and ask for some straight answers from President Bush and his cabal.

America has been shamed before the world.

Dorie Southern

Falls Church, Va.

Make solar energy a more viable option

Could someone please explain how it is that millions of dollars in subsidies are given to the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries while relatively little is given to renewable energy, especially solar power ("Seize the chance to give Maryland a brighter future with solar power," Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 25)?

The oil and gas industries have our politicians in their back pockets through high-paid lobbyists and campaign funding while the renewable energy folks are left to beg for scraps.

When will our politicians put the needs of the people above the needs of industry?

If we can put a man on the moon, we can surely make solar energy a viable option for all of us.

Steve Schwarz

Baltimore

Schaefer's collecting not front-page news

I was amazed to discover that state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer's hobby of collecting giveaways at the Maryland Association of Counties convention constitutes front-page news ("Free stuff's the right stuff as Schaefer prowls the halls," Aug. 20).

With all the events taking place in the world (Israelis leaving Gaza, rocket attacks in Jordan, Coretta Scott King's illness, etc.), what was the purpose of having this piece on the front page of the paper?

And further, given all the shortages in our school systems, rather than keeping "several decades' worth of convention goodies" in a room, wouldn't it be great if some of those pencils, pens, calendars, etc., could be donated to the schools where teachers spend hundreds of their own dollars yearly to supplement the supplies they are provided?

I think priorities in several areas need to be re-examined.

Karen S. Brown

Baltimore

Exploiting the woes of Hamm's family?

After seeing several different photos of Nicole Sesker and several articles about her in one day's edition ("Drug fight turns highly personal," Aug. 25, and "Taking family's pain public takes courage, and a lot of love," Aug. 25), I have to ask if this is normal Sun reporting about a suspected drug user or possibly an ambush of Baltimore Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm's family and life?

J. Tarr

Cockeysville

Witcover exit opens space for balance

Kudos to The Sun for finally deep-sixing Jules Witcover's column ("End of Witcover column lamented," Aug. 23).

It had become quite apparent that his creative and intellectual well was running dry as his columns, week after week, were basically rewrites of the same tired Bush-bashing rhetoric.

Let's hope that The Sun chooses to start presenting a more balanced point of view to expose its readers to both sides of the important issues.

This would certainly go a long way to improve The Sun's long-waning circulation numbers and also might help it regain credibility as an objective newspaper.

Steve Couzantino

Pasadena

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