Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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Call me a skeptic, but I am still not sold on health care reform and sincerely question whether it will actually impact my household or anyone I know. I certainly hope so, but I have my doubts.

Overall, my feeling is the status quo is unacceptable and any measure trying to correct fundamental flaws with health care in this country is worth a shot. Being a small business owner, the critical issue that needs immediate attention is absurd annual premium spikes. For instance, my company’s health insurance cycle starts May 1, meaning just recently a notice came in the mail regarding premium rates for the next year. To maintain the same group health insurance plan, the company, and subsequently its employees, will have to cope with a 38-percent jump in monthly premiums. Further diluting the program to the lowest level offered and raising the deductible to the highest level offered still represents a 9-percent increase over what’s currently being paid. It’s unbelievable.

This is the most critical problem, from a small business standpoint. The impact of this legislation depends on who is talking and which side of the mouth they are using. Like many small business owners I spoke to this week, I have adopted a wait-and-see approach, while trying to figure out how to stomach these ridiculous premium increases in the meantime.

Along those lines, it was interesting to read AGH President and CEO Michael Franklin’s take on health care reform. He is in an interesting position here because he is involved in health care from all angles. He’s the leader of a health care institution, while also keenly aware of the skyrocketing costs associated with insurance for his employees. When asked about whether the reform socialized medicine and how much of an impact it will have on patients, Franklin said, “People may have to wait longer to see a doctor based, again, on the supply and demand. People think they are socializing medicine by giving everyone the same care, but that’s not necessarily true. If we can create a equilibrium in the market place, it could be a good thing down the road to all folks, but when you bring 32 million more people into a system into an already stressed system, the health care you provide may be more affordable than what it was because of these economic exchanges, but it won’t necessarily be more accessible.”

A measure to end driving while talking on the phone is quietly picking up steam in Annapolis. Last year, texting while driving was banned, leading many to assume it would only be a matter of time before talking while driving was outlawed. This week, the Senate passed a ban on hand-held cell use in a controversial 24-23 vote, with only two Republicans joining 22 Democrats in support. The bill allows headset use, but mandates drivers keep their hands off their phones at all times.

After spending a considerable amount of time on the road recently, I have changed my way of thinking on this. Previously, I took the conservative approach, preferring government stay out of my car and mind its own business. Although I still feel that way fundamentally, I believe in this case that people need to be protected from themselves. There’s no question talking on the phone while driving causes distractions and puts motorists in danger. The fact here is some people are just careless drivers and putting a phone in their hand only makes them even more dangerous. The legislature would be wise to approve this bill.

The state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is often ridiculed for making poor decisions on fisheries management, largely due to flawed catch data being relied upon. In the case of the upcoming flounder season, which opens next month, DNR got it right in the end. After initially reporting it was going with a shortened season and a smaller size minimum, angering local fishermen, DNR recognized its mistake, ruling this week to extend the season to late November while enlarging the size minimum. Although there’s little jumping for joy with this announcement, DNR at least got it right.

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