Letters to the Editor

Competition would help raise standards

In response to John Mazarous' letter ("School taxes not equitable for those with no children," To the Editor, Nov. 29), he does not look at the big picture. His assumption that renters don't pay taxes is erroneous as the apartment complex is taxed at a higher rate than single-family housing, thus one's rent pays part of the taxes.

The point really should be school choice. Every parent should be given a voucher equal to the average amount spent on each student in the system. They can use this amount to send their child to the local government school or use it towards a private or religious school of their choice. This would cause competition and increase the level of learning for all children.

Schools that teach will succeed and those that fail would go out of business. This would by far increase the level of a student's education and move the county ahead in academic achievement.

- Chris Weinert


Still many questions about health benefits

Many state employees are still uneasy about their future health care benefits and with a recent contract signed with United Healthcare.

The state wants to reduce health care spending for its active and retired employees by a reported $60 million or greater. The bid process for the management of State Health Benefit system programs specified cost-reduction goals that the winner of the bid must reach. Blue Cross/Blue Shield did not win the bid, therefore the BCBS network of physicians and hospitals built over many years are no longer available, leaving some to travel hundreds of miles to a covered provider for their health care.

The management contract worth $55 million was awarded to United Healthcare, whose physician and hospital network is seriously deficient in coverage for large areas of Georgia. Under the contract, United must reduce state health expenditures by 44 percent the first year. If they achieve less than a 37 percent reduction, the payment by the state to United Healthcare will be reduced by 15 percent.

The state wants to save money. United Healthcare wants to make money. The 44 percent reduction in the first year will have to come from payments to doctors and hospitals and higher out-of-pocket expenses for the active and retired employees.

In addition, earlier this year active and retired state employees received a letter from Tim Burgess, commissioner for the Georgia Department of Community Health, detailing a financial shortfall of $446 million in the State Benefit Health Care Plan.

The plan shortfall was attributed to health care inflationary costs rising at near double-digit rates with pharmacy leading the way. The shortfall was also attributed, in his words, to "members not doing enough to control benefit utilization, therefore the employees would have to shoulder a significant portion of the financial responsibility to maintain the plan's solvency."

According to Georgia's insurance commissioner, United Healthcare faces charges that it failed to pay between 75,000 and 80,000 claims on time. United was fined for the same failure to pay claims in a timely manner in 2000 and 2002.

There are still many unanswered questions about the future of health care benefits for active and retired Georgia employees.

- Ralph and Pat Greene