Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The month's last Wednesday and a Petition Call

I like the last Wednesday of the month. I get a chance to go out to lunch with a bunch of great people with whom I worked for a goodly amount of years. We meet this day at an inexpensive eating place, talk about the month’s activities, the state of the land, the latest in sports, actually just about anything and everything that comes to mind.

We all are retired from the same work place so that also becomes a great sourced of discussion. The folks that will be meeting today are all what I guess one might call the old guard. We generally began these meetings some 14 years ago. We’ve had some others from time to time who joined us for brief spells, and at least one that drops by periodically now. But most of us have been together monthly for nearly the full time.

Short vacations, illnesses, and other obligations have kept each of us away for a session or two during these years, but the majority is there each month. One of the original groups is now a full time resident of another state and we rarely see him, but when he visits Maine, he includes a session or two. Two others are “snow birds” who head for Florida for a few months in the winter, so they miss those days. But generally, it’s a good and lively group of old retired men and the one remaining woman that gets together on these last Wednesdays of the month.

On another topic, I received a phone call yesterday. I think many of you may have received the same or similar call. My daughter had one left on her answering machine one day last week. It was a recorded message from a woman who did identify herself by name and said she was a registered nurse from Belgrade. The topic of the call was the petition drive now in full swing to get a huge tax increase law passed by the last legislature in the waning moments of its session. The law was designed to fund the state’s failed insurance plan called Dirigo.

This Belgrade RN was urging call recipients not to sign the petition. She said the repeal of the law would end health care for a goodly number of Maine’s most needy citizens. That isn’t a blatant lie as there are about 14-thousand Mainers on the DirigoChoice state insurance plan. But, if Dirigo did end, and the petition drive isn’t to end the insurance plan but only the huge tax increase designed to fund it, it might start competition to bring down health costs for all Mainers. All a repeal of the law would do is return funding to its present way, charging companies for what the state says are savings due to Dirigo.

When the legislature fostered this failed plan on us five years ago, it promised that it would be self-sustaining and that more than 130-thousand previously uninsured would be on the plan. Five years later, the legislature continues to pass taxes to force every single person in the state to pay for Dirigo and the 14-thousand people the state says is on the plan cannot even come close to self funding.

That 14-thousand number is also sort of specious. The state tosses around different numbers from having more than 25-thousand people on the plan at some time, many of whom left, to less than the popular 14-thousand now depending on who’s speaking and for what purpose. To the best of my knowledge, the truth has never been revealed, possibly because the state simply can’t justify the numbers and cost.

We also read, but it’s rarely reported in the state’s news media, that of those 14-thousand, more than half aren’t on the DirigoChoice plan itself but rather part of MaineCare, the state’s version of Medicare. And mostly funded by Medicare. And of that 14-thousand, about five thousand already were paying for their own private insurance but switched, apparently to let you and me pay for a goodly portion of it for them.

Using the same scare tactics that have been employed by the Democrats in each of the last election years to scare people into falsely believing the sky will fall, that RN from Belgrade says the neediest will lose their health care if the tax is repealed. After all, she suggests, what’s a few extra pennies on the drinks you buy to insure those needy.

One of the main problems with the argument is we will be paying for that health care anyway through our outrageously expensive state welfare system. And that tax affects every single man, woman and child in Maine that drinks just about anything except milk. It is about as universal a tax as can be imagined.

The caller also hides behind a recording. She does not enter into a dialogue, probably simply because she knows she couldn’t win the debate.

I continue to urge signing one of the Tax Repeal petitions when you see one.


No comments: