Letter to Editor: Harris’ Vote Weakens Pre-Existing Condition Protection

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1st District Representative, Andy Harris, voted against H.R. 986, a bill which would have repealed an executive action by President Trump that weakened health insurance requirements designed to protect patients with pre-existing conditions.

Harris has been consistent in his desire to strip pre-existing conditions protection from health insurance policies, a position which can be catastrophic for those citizens with pre-existing health conditions. Harris’ solution, as he has repeatedly voiced in the past, is to place all patients with pre-existing conditions into a high risk pool of insured, thereby allowing them to be charged higher premiums. T

his position fails to understand that insurance works best when the insured pool is large and diverse and all share in the risks of being ill. What senior citizen does NOT or WILL NOT have a pre-existing condition? One republican friend, nearing retirement, told me “Just try hang on until you reach 65 and then Medicare will kick in” That my friends is not a sound health care policy.

Let’s face it, the only group that Harris’ plan protects is the insurance industry.

Harris voted with his republican minority in the House by voting NAY. Fortunately, the bill passed with 230 (228 democrats and 2 republicans) voting YEA and 183 (all republican) voting NAY, mostly along party lines. A Nay vote was a vote to further weaken health insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

What is House Bill H.R. 986?

This bill would repeal an October 2018 guidance issued by the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) related to “State Relief and Empowerment Waivers” under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). The guidance loosened restrictions of Section 1332 state innovation waivers, which became available to states in January 2017 under the ACA, by expanding the definition of coverage to include short-term plans and allowing existing state legislation about enforcing Obamacare satisfied the waiver requirement.” www.countable.us

For more information on this Bill go here

Chris Koch
Talbot County 

Letter to Editor: Harris Votes Correctly to Potentially Lower Future Generic Drug Prices

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Voting with the majority, 1st District representative, Andy Harris, voted twice with the entire House of Representatives to advance House Bill H.R. 1520 and H.R 1503. The first Bill passed the House with 420 Yeas and 0 Nays. The second Bill passed with 422 Yeas and 0 Nays.

What is House Bill H.R. 1520?

This bill — the Purple Book Continuity Act of 2019 — would require that the FDA proactively determine the reference product exclusivity for each licensed biological product (or biosimilar) listed in the Purple Book. It also would direct the FDA to solicit public comments regarding the type of information that should be contained in the Purple Book and transmit a report to the Congress within three years after the date of enactment.

This bill would also impose a private-sector mandate requiring biological product manufacturers to provide the FDA with certain patent information when that information is shared with biosimilar product manufacturers.

Finally, this bill would specify that the Purple Book should be published to the FDA’s website and updated regularly.

For more information on this click here.

What is House Bill H.R. 1503?

This bill — the Orange Book Transparency Act of 2019 —  would increase access to lower-cost generic drugs and bolster competition within the generic drug marketplace to help reduce drug costs by ensuring that patents listed in the Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations Publication (aka the Orange Book) are valid and relevant to the approved product. It’d also strengthen requirements surrounding the removal of invalidated patents from the Orange Book.

Specifically, this bill would:

  • Clarify the types of patents listed in the Orange Book (and require the removal of invalidated patents);
  • Require a list of applicable exclusivities for listed drugs;

  • Create a private-sector mandate requiring drug manufacturers to promptly submit a patent withdrawal or removal to the FDA for patents found invalid by the Patent Trial and Appeals Board or another court; and

  • Empower the FDA to: 1) add additional patents to the Orange Book if necessary, 2) promptly remove patents from the Orange Book which are found to be invalid, and 3) reconsider the types of patents listed in the Orange Book within one year of enactment.

For more information click here.

Christopher A. Koch
Easton

Letter to Editor: Trust the Chesapeake Bay Foundation? Not!

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Trust the Chesapeake Bay Foundation? Not!

I received an email from CBF inviting me to comment on what is now the “Busch Legacy Oyster Bill”. Remember it is the bill THAT Governor Hogan tried to veto while asking for a less political and more inclusive alternative.

While the space provided was to be hopefully used to favor the bill, it did not prohibit an anti-bill comment. I looked at the opportunity to comment about the hysterical tactics and falsehoods used by the foundation to push their bill through the legislature.  

So, I used the opportunity to inform the foundation of mine and the industry’s anti-bill stance. I submitted it and went on my way in the belief that once my comment was read at the foundation it would obviously not be used in the pro-bill letter the foundation would send out to all legislators.

Fool that I am. Not only did the foundation not bother to read my comments but lifted my name and placed it on the list of those supporting the bill.

My delegate’s office sent me an email concerned that my name appeared in support. Shocked and insulted I immediately informed the delegate of my actions and my dismay at the possible fraud in using my name to further the CBF cause. I asked my delegate to ask for my comments from the CBF. The foundation has not complied. This begs the question. If they did this to me then, just how many other people has CBF done this too?

If you are among the supporters who pay their dues and walk away thinking the foundation can be trusted in all actions to do the right thing, think again. Your “activism” is merely that of a slacktivist.  Educate yourselves with information from as many sources you can find. Beware the comfort zone of shared opinions provided by “well” meaning foundations and associations.

Marc Castelli
Kent County

 

Letter to Editor: Harris Votes Against Interest of Seniors

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Reportedly, older Americans lose approximately $36.5 billion a year to financial scams and abuse; and those numbers are increasing as technology makes it easier for scammers to target older Americans. I know my home phone rings ceaselessly with junk phone calls from marketers trying to fool me and my wife into some unscrupulous scam.

In 2016, a survey by the Investor Protection Trust found that nearly one in five seniors — approximately seven million Americans — have reported being victims of exploitation. In 2018, U.S. banks reported a record 24,454 cases of suspected elder financial abuse to the Treasury Department — more than double the number of suspected cases five years earlier.

Congress attempted to bring some help to seniors with a new bill titled “The Senior Security Act of 2019”. Our 1st District Representative, Harris, voted against it. A vote against H.R. 1867 was a vote against added financial protection for seniors in our district.

The vote was 392 voting YEA, 20 voting NAY. Harris voted NAY.

What is House Bill H.R. 1876?

This bill — the Senior Security Act of 2019 — would create a Senior Investor Taskforce at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that would examine and identify challenges facing senior investors. This interdivisional task force would be comprised of staff from the Division of Enforcement, Office of Compliance, Inspections and Examinations, and Office of Investor Education and Advocacy. The task force, in consultation with other SEC offices, state securities and law enforcement authorities, state insurance regulators, and federal agencies, would report its findings to Congress every two years and recommend any regulatory or statutory changes.

Further, within one year of this bill’s enactment, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) would be required to study and report on the economic costs of the financial exploitation of senior citizens.  For more information please go here.

Christopher A. Koch
President
Bristol Realty Corporation

 

Letter to Editor: Animal Care Shelter Asks for Kent County to Approve Zoning Changes

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The Humane Society of Kent County, Inc, now known as Animal Care Shelter for Kent County, sold its’ Still Pond Road property, purchased in 2018, to CK Property Management, LLC on April 22, 2019.

While the non-profit organization believes it would have ultimately received all of the various approvals to build a new, much needed animal shelter on Still Pond Road, a potential delay to raise funds and to construct the building would be detrimental to our animals and organization. In addition, the Board of HSKC desires that a new animal care shelter for Kent County be a welcome addition and unifying event by everyone in our community.

The shelter Board is asking the Commissioners to recognize the Humane Society as an animal shelter, not a commercial kennel, and identify suitable zones for animal shelters. A recent Planning Commission meeting recommended that Industrial Zones be added to a contentious text amendment currently under consideration.

The Board of HSKC has authorized its president, Richard Keaveney and Executive Director Jane Welsh to identify potential sites for a new shelter compatible with anticipated changes in the County Code. The shelter will be looking for about 4 acres that is both visible and accessible for all of Kent County.

For more information please contact Richard Keaveney (rdkeaveney@gmail.com; 410-708-6470) or Jane Welsh (jwelsh@kenthumane.org or 443-994-9420.

Animal Care Shelter for Kent County

Letter to the Editor: Towns Deserve Tax Relief from County

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Kent County’s budget does not include an annual tax rebate to Chestertown, Rock Hall, Millington, Betterton, and Galena, nor does the county reduce its tax rate for property owners in these municipalities.

By eschewing rebates or tax relief, the County requires the five towns’ taxpayers to pay for certain County services—public safety, public works, planning and zoning—that they do not receive. It’s as simple as that!

Seven of nine Shore counties realize their responsibility to municipal taxpayers. Caroline, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot counties provide property tax differentials. Cecil and Somerset provide rebates. Worchester provides “grants.” Alone, Kent and Wicomico provide nothing.

Because it collects property taxes for phantom services, Kent County flim-flams all taxpayers in its five municipalities. It’s time for this to stop!

Because Chestertown is home to one-quarter of county residents, it bears the lion’s share of this taxing inequity. Thank you, Mayor Chris Cerino, for forcefully and clearly describing this situation to Kent County’s commissioners and asking them to be fair and just.

Grenville B. Whitman

Rock Hall

 

Letter to Editor: Speak Out Against Hate on the Eastern Shore

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The members of the undersigned organizations condemn the dispersal of white supremacist flyers on the Eastern Shore on March 31. In addition to being found in the Rio Vista neighborhood of St. Michaels, as reported in the Star Democrat, flyers with different text – though equally hateful and containing the same organizational name and contact information – were found on Tilghman Island.

Similar flyers have also been found over the last year in both Eastern Shore counties of Virginia; and in Maryland, in Anne Arundel, Charles, Queen Anne’s, Somerset and Worcester Counties; and the towns of Gaithersburg, Germantown, Eldersburg, Ellicott City, Glen Burnie, La Plata, Lothian, South Baltimore, Sykesville, Upper Marlboro and Waldorf.

Unanswered questions remain. Was this a coordinated action as it seems? Who dispersed this bigoted literature? Are they our neighbors? Have they succeeded in their recruitment campaign?

Just like nooses and swastikas, these acts are not pranks to be taken lightly, but symbols designed to spread fear of violence against African Americans and Latinos and Jewish people. We will not tolerate the spread of racial and religious terror with its potential to incite violence in our community. Though the President has fanned the flames of hate, we must fight this wildfire with all we’ve got. We cannot remain silent and allow bigotry to take root in our communities.

We raise our voices against hate and prejudice. We call on all people of moral conscience to speak out to provide a bulwark against bigotry. We also call on our elected officials – our Midshore Delegation to the Maryland legislature – and Congressman Andy Harris to publicly denounce these acts immediately.

Please participate in creating a public presence of love and tolerance and against all forms of hatred by printing a sign from this website and putting it in your window

Bay Hundred Citizens for a Just Society (The Hedgehogs)
Indivisible Worcester Maryland
Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible
Lower Shore Progressive Caucus
Salisbury University College Democrats
Social Action Committee for Racial Justice – Kent County, MD
Talbot Rising

Letter to Editor: We Deserve Better From UMM Shore Regional Health

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The self-dealing scandal involving 9 of 30 UMMS Board members continues to occupy headlines. Both the MD House of Delegates and the MD Senate have unanimously passed legislation to reform the Board, and are awaiting likely approval by Governor Hogan. Comptroller Franchot has asked the state prosecutor to investigate, and blasted the Board’s choice of consulting firm to investigate. To quote him: “The State Prosecutor, thank God, is involved. This independent consulting firm that’s been hired by the system from California, I mean, forgive me, take a look at that consulting companies client list and tell me that that is an independent look at anything.”

Meanwhile, there has been very little public discussion of this on the Eastern Shore, despite the fact that one of the self-dealers on the UMMS Board who resigned within a few days of Mayor Pugh, continues to serve on our local Easton hospital board. Indeed, despite the fact that Mr. John Dillon has received more than $150,000.00 per year from UMMS for “capital campaign and strategic planning” he continues to hold the position of Chairman of the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health (SRH) at Easton, a position he has held since 2013.

The merger of our local hospital in 2006 was done in hopes of gaining access to subspecialty care, and to financial resources that would aid us in building a new hospital. Of note, Mr. Dillon was one of the people instrumental in promoting that merger. In the last decade, UMMS has been acquiring hospitals at a rapid rate of speed. As a result, individual hospital visions get a little blurry, and their mission statements more generic. Decisions regarding care locally are no longer decided locally. Remote control of care structuring has often resulted in clinical situations that make it more difficult for healthcare providers to give what they consider optimal care.

The patients of the Eastern Shore deserve better.

The dedicated workers of Shore healthcare facilities deserve better.

We need to challenge the members of the our local Board to ask Mr. Dillon to step down, and, even more so, to focus on strengthening our regional health care delivery processes. We also need to let our legislators know that we expect a truly independent audit of the UMMS board, with any illegal activities reported to the State Attorney General’s office.

Eva M. Smorzaniuk, M.D.
Talbot County

 

Letter: Clean Chesapeake Coalition Intervenes in Exelon’s Petition to FERC

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Last week, the Clean Chesapeake Coalition (CCC), on behalf of its Maryland member counties, filed its Motion to Intervene in the Petition for Declaratory Order by Exelon Generation Company now pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The CCC has been at the forefront of this issue for years, long before the current surge of interest in the threat the Conowingo Factor poses to Bay health, back when certain special interest groups were still calling the impacts of the Conowingo Dam a “red herring” in the context of saving the Bay.

CCC member counties and their county official remain disappointed at the lengths Exelon is willing to take to shirk environmental responsibility associated with the operation of this lucrative power station. This private, for-profit corporation which, according to its own website recorded $35.9 billion in revenues in 2018, claims that the Maryland Department of the Environment’s qualifications for a Water Quality Certification are “impracticable.” Meanwhile, Maryland counties with annual budgets that are a tiny fraction of Exelon’s revenues, are spending enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars to develop and implement their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP) and help Maryland meet its Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) goals; and the local economies of Bayside counties are hurt by the Conowingo Factor impacts on the seafood industry.

Well-supported by science and enforceable under the law, the Hogan Administration has embraced the once-in-a-generation opportunity to impose licensing conditions requiring the owner of Conowingo Dam to properly manage the vast quantities of nutrients, sediment and other contaminants that are accumulated in the reservoir above the Dam and scoured into the Bay, not just during major storm events but now, with increasing frequency, because of the loss of trapping capacity in the reservoir.

Consider the following: in 2016, according to United States Geological Survey (USGS) monitoring data, the average daily discharge at the Dam reached or exceeded 100,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) on a total of six (6) days throughout the year; in 2017, this happened 18 times; in 2018, this happened on 77 different days. In fact, in 2018, there was only one month, June, in which there were no days with an average daily discharge rate at 100,000 cfs or higher. Thus far in the first quarter of 2019 (January 1 – March 31), USGS provisional data has recorded 16 days with an average daily discharge at or above 100,000 cfs. We know that when the water is coming through the Dam at 100,000 cfs, scouring begins to occur, loading nutrient-laden sediment into the upper Chesapeake Bay in shocking proportions. At this rate, we are on track to reach our allowable nutrient levels for the entire watershed solely through the inability of the Conowingo Reservoir to keep upstream pollutants trapped behind the spill gates.

Exelon maintains that the Dam is not a source of pollution and while it may be true that the Dam does not itself create pollution, CCC and other intervenors contend that its operations have a severe negative impact on the health of the Bay and that the 14-mile reservoir behind the Dam, also the responsibility of Exelon, must be properly maintained so that the downstream cleanup progress made to date is not wiped out by the next major storm event. Given that there is an 80% chance of a 25-year storm occurring during the re-licensing period sought by Exelon, the billions that have already been spent downstream to improve the quality of our country’s largest estuary will be washed down the proverbial toilet if Exelon continues to dodge any meaningful role in Bay stewardship.

A copy of the Coalition’s recent Motion to Intervene in the FERC relicensing process may be found on its website: www.cleanchesapeakecoalition.org

Charles D. MacLeod
Clean Chesapeake Coalition

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