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Chellie Pingree Pulls Ahead, First Congress person to Respond

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This is the third part of a series testing how our elected officials in Maine respond to a question from a Citizen about their federal health care plans.

Recap: Senators Snowe and Collins, Representatives Michaud, and Pingree were asked for copies of their health care policies and what the costs are to the public and to them.
They were also asked how much of those health care benefits will carry into retirement if they become vested.

Remember, this is public information, hard to find but public. You and me and your neighbors pay their salaries. We pay for their benefits, or at least some part of those benefits.

Snowe’s office refused Collins office very politely said, don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Michaud’s office, also politely gave me the brush off.

Congress Woman Pingree’s office sent a response, and then a follow up response when I pointed out that they may have misunderstood my question.

The response is coming later in this post. One out of three elected officials, two answers and one of them advice to “go find it yourself”. The other answer a polite follow up along with an a second follow up, without the information, but seriously leaving the door open to belief that we have at least one Congressional representative that cares about the people of Maine.

In all fairness I will copy the three posts on this topic, forward them to the Congressional offices involved in case I just hit one day of bad customer service in three cases.

Thank you, Congress woman Pingree and thank you Mr. Ritch for the emails.


Dear Tom,

Let me see if I can dig up that information for you.

Willy

On 8/25/09 8:47 PM, “NarsBars” <NarsBars@UnionMaine.Org> wrote:

Mr. Ritch,
Thank you but my question was more specific. I would like a copy of the explanation of benefits for the plan Congresswoman Pingree elected and a break down of the costs for that plan allocated to the Congresswoman and the taxpayer. I realize this is public information but my intent is more than health care, it is to measure and demonstrate the help or lack of help each federal office holder in Maine is willing to provide to the public as opposed to a lobbyist.
I am afraid my contributions to Congresswoman Pingree will not get me an invitation to chat on the phone.

I look forward to that information, as Senator Snowe’s office has told me to “go look it up” . I am publishing all of the answers I receive or the lack of them in a continuing series on my blog Http://www.unionmaine.blogspot.com <http://www.unionmaine.blogspot.com/>

Thank you,
Thomas Maher


From: Willy Ritch [mailto:willy.ritch@mail.house.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 9:45 AM
To: narsbars@unionmaine.org
Subject:


Hi Tom,

I understand you had a question about health care benefits that Members of Congress are eligible for. They actually have a choice of a bunch of plans, and I think this LA Times article describes it pretty well:

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-congress-benefits2-2009aug02,0,7524121.story

Let me know if you have any more questions.

All the best,

Willy

Willy Ritch
Communications Director
Policy Advisor
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-1)
willy.ritch@mail.house.gov


P.S. Check out Congresswoman Pingree’s web site.

Here is a summary of Congresswoman Pingree’s stance on health care during 2002.


Allow states to negotiate lower drug prices

Pingree will push to increase the bargaining power of states. Maine has led the way in attempting to lower drug costs for all residents by negotiating with drug companies for lower prices. However, states need more flexibility from the federal government to negotiate lower prices through the federally funded, state-administered Medicaid program. The creative work done in the states should not be tied up at every turn by this powerful industry. States should be allowed more flexibility under the law to seek creative solutions. Any state should be able to negotiate for lower prices from drug companies that provide drugs to the state’s Medicaid program — and pass those discounts on to anyone who lacks prescription drug coverage, not just those on Medicaid.

Source: Campaign website, www.PingreeForSenate.com, “Health Care” Sep 26, 2002

Fight drug companies to make generic drugs available

Pingree will push to make lower priced, quality generic drugs available to consumers. Many people could save enormous amounts of money by buying high-quality, lower priced generic drugs, which often cost 25-60% less than expensive name-brand drugs. However, pharmaceutical companies use their influence to keep quality generic drugs off the market,. National drug policies should lower the barriers erected by the big drug companies and make quality generic drugs available to consumers.

Source: Campaign website, www.PingreeForSenate.com, “Health Care” Sep 26, 2002

Patient’s Rights to protect privacy

Pingree called for passage of a National Patients Bill of Rights that includes additional privacy protections for patients. “Keeping your medical records protected from the marketing departments of the pharmaceutical companies is a basic right that patients deserve,” said Pingree. “A National Patients Bill of Rights that includes privacy protections will ensure that doctors and heath care professionals — not big drug or insurance companies — make important heath care decisions.”

Source: Campaign website, PingreeForSenate.com, “Patients Rights” Aug 28, 2002

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August 29th, 2009 Posted by narsbars | Chellie Pingree, Dear Tom, Health care, Maine, Olympia Snowe, United States Congress, United States House of Representatives | no comments

Will OPEGA be Allowed to Stop Waste and Fraud?

Maine State Police Cruiser - Ford InterceptorImage via Wikipedia

Will State Government ever stop fraud and waste in Privatization?
August 16, 2009.

As State Government seeks to enrich private interests with no concern for the taxpayer, public officials in other State and local governments are seeing outsourced contracts bleeding red ink and are starting to review “good old boy” contracts that have been in place for years.

Maine government has always been ready to settle for the quick fix. They have waited until times are desperate, rather than planning ahead.

Our governors and legislators on both sides of the aisle have always been ready to fall back on blaming State employees as too expensive while seeking the cover of downsizing State Government and claiming contractors can perform public services “better, cheaper, and faster.”

The well hidden facts show that this is very often so much cow flop. The justification for privatizing government services is becoming harder sell as more and more examples of waste are shown. On the National level the examples include abuses by federal contractors such as Halliburton and Blackwater in Iraq.

How many dead Marines were killed due to faulty showers turned into electrified death chambers?

On the interstate our rest areas are closed. Except where State Employees work, the interstate looks like a scene from a disaster movie.Contractors paint their trucks the same color as State trucks, buy their employees the same uniforms, then when they “lean on shovels” a State employee is blamed.

In Maine we outsourced the grass cutting on the interstate. When the costs for State employees to cut grass was figured, the State costs were figured based on weekly cutting from May 1 through Labor day. When the so called cheaper bid was given out the contractors were only required to cut the grass two times during the season.

This contract has never been reevaluated. Millions, perhaps tens of millions of dollars are going to mostly one Augusta landlord while State buildings remain empty and the legislators are being urged to tear down the remaining buildings and rent from Eddie G. In the mean time the state study on the cost of rental space has been suspended since 2008.(Check the link to OPEGA)

The Maine Revenue Service pays private contractors to collect taxes and then lets them skim some of the funds, all the while paying more for the services than the cost of hiring State employees.

State IT hires contractors to do services that could be provided by State employees by withholding training funds for State employees in order to claim that we have no one able to perform the services.

.The real costs of privatization must be exposed. 911, Fire Departments, State Police, Motor Vehicles, in many places the profit motive does not support the the public good.

In the name of public service, some State and local agencies are limiting privatization: · The Metrolink commuter rail agency in Los Angeles voted to stop outsourcing and hire its own train crews, after a crash killed 25 people.

There are rising cries for Audits of State contracts. Last week, OPEGA, ( The Office of Program Evaluation & Government Accountability) called for a thorough review of State contracts to determine where services might be less expensively provided by State employees.

Citizens are not being served, State offices are closed, our budget is put in danger by privatization and it’s only to enrich a few at a huge cost to the taxpayers.

Legislators, perhaps looking to their own retirement as consultants are trying to outsource many functions, rest areas closed or outsourced, grass cutting on the interstate where it is looking like a wheat field, not a road.

Last year the Levinson center in Bangor was outsourced to save twelve cents a day.

OPEGA suspended

Employees lost pay and benefits in order to enrich a corporation and save $512.00 a year. The bidding process alone probably ate up a hundred years of the so called savings.

We must demand that our government works for all Mainers, and tax dollars are no longer flushed down the toilet by government contracts. The need to end waste, fraud and abuse in government contracting demands legislation be passed to ensure:

Ensure that jobs that should be done by government are performed by State employees. Agencies would be required to identify those jobs performed by contractors, review the costs and bring all jobs back in house that can be performed at the same or lower costs.

All contracts must consider the loss of revenue to the State for any contract bid that would send substantial dollars out of State.

We lose tax revenue, and we lose good jobs for Mainers by paying out of State and even off shore contractors. Considering this loss of revenue would bring many more jobs in reach of State government or to other Maine employers.

Agencies must be required to provide inventories of all contracts and to track costs and performance.

Require agencies to determine whether there are or will be staffing shortages and develop plans to address them.

Require that all contract costs be made public and that all terms of any outsourced conract be based on the same work being performed by State government.

Direct the Administration to make long-overdue reforms, as suggested by OPEGA, (The Office of Program Evaluation & Government Accountability)
to contracting out policies and reviews.

Suspend all contracting out that would result in the loss of any State jobs until all the reforms have been made across the government.

Until then, check out how much has not been done, how many dollars are in limbo because the studies have been suspended (cost to rent buildings for one)
how much more we need to do?

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August 17th, 2009 Posted by narsbars | Maine, Maine State Employees, Privatization, State Government, outsourcing | no comments