The right thing

I am an Obamacare Navigator and have been helping people sign up for Marketplace health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. After the initial website kinks, this has been a very satisfying process. I’ve seen dozens of people find good policies that they can afford, and many are getting health insurance for the first time in their adult lives.

Much to my distress, I am also meeting people who are too “wealthy” for Medicaid (MaineCare) yet too “poor” for Obamacare, leaving them “in the gap” with no hope of obtaining health insurance. The people I’ve seen are self-employed, many of them farmers, craftspeople or those with low paying jobs. They are hard working and would suffer immensely if their health were compromised.

In my opinion, these people deserve to have the preventative care that is provided in all health care plans as of 2014, and they don’t deserve to face financial ruin if they run into health problems. In addition, our healthcare system doesn’t deserve to bear the higher cost of care when those without insurance end up in the emergency room because it is their only option.

Many of the people I’ve worked with are the ones (the 25,000 individuals in Maine who earn between $11,490 and $15,282) who fall into the “gap” that was created when Maine did not accept federal funding to extend MaineCare to the income levels where ObamaCare starts its subsidies. The state Legislature approved the extension in 2013, but the governor vetoed the bill.

This issue will be reintroduced in early 2014. Please urge your legislators to support the expansion of MaineCare because this gap has to be corrected. From any perspective (humanitarian or fiscal), it is the right thing to do.

Lynn Cheney

Blue Hill

Kindness and cheer

As the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy approached, the families of those lost sent out a simple message: On Dec. 14, please honor our loved ones by performing an act of kindness. The Mount Desert Island High School Speech Team was inspired by that request, but there was a competition at Brunswick High School that day; we would leave home by 4:30 a.m. and not return until late in the evening. And so we came up with a holiday card project.

Each team member brought two holiday cards to the speech and debate competition. We decided the cards were destined for marginalized people in need of a kind word. Each student wrote a greeting on one and enclosed the blank one for the recipient to send to someone else. During a lull in the day’s competition, my team led the attending schools in this activity.

Sherman’s Bookstore in Bar Harbor generously donated two boxes of beautiful cards as extras for those who didn’t bring their own. Kris Deveau, my Brunswick High School counterpart and a tournament host, provided additional cards and stamps.

Many students participated. Bangor High School’s speech and debate teams made a particularly strong effort. Then, two days before Christmas, dozens of homeless shelter residents received a card thoughtfully written by a Maine high school student and an opportunity to write and send a greeting to someone else.

I was glad to see our young people reach out to less fortunate folks they will never meet. From MDI to Cape Elizabeth, Mainers joined together and, in honor of the Sandy Hook victims, passed along some kindness and holiday cheer.

Marjory Russakoff

Mount Desert Island High School speech coach

Southwest Harbor

Rethink design

The fiery outcome of the spate of railroad tank car accidents mentioned in the Dec. 31, 2013, edition of the BDN may be due to a major design flaw. Newer rail tank cars use the tank itself as the main structural member of the car with the trucks (wheels, bearings, etc.) attached directly to the tank. Older tank cars had the trucks attached to a steel structural member outside the tank, and the tank in effect rode piggy-back on a kind of flat car.

When a derailment such as the Lac Megantic disaster and the Casselton, N.D., accident occurs, the trucks are torn from the tank, the tank is ruptured, and the contents of the tank are spewed onto the roadbed and into whatever ignition source was created by the derailment. “Protective steel jackets, thermal protection and pressure relief valves” will not prevent catastrophic spills and fires so long as the tank itself is the main structural element of a tank car. The basic design of the tank car needs to be rethought in order to reduce the possibility of life-threatening accidents.

John F. Battick


Problem solver

Another year, another OpEd on GMO foods. I, too, worry about the global monopolization of seed stocks by a few major corporations, and I empathize with those who are against big agricultural companies like Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta, but one must separate the

two vastly different issues driving people’s views of the issues being raised.

The genes (actually proteins) in use are common in nature. The bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis is used as a systemic insecticide and has been approved for use in organic farming for over 50 years as a foliar spray. It’s the same bacteria; the only difference is in people’s exposure — inhalation vs. dietary. Over 50 years of inhalation exposure have not been proven to cause adverse health effects in humans and, to date, over 20 years of dietary exposure have produced identical results. Many people may not realize that the Bt protein that is consumed by eating crops treated systemically is destroyed in the human gut in less than 30 seconds.

So, rant and rave all you want about the role of big industry in agriculture. I happen to agree. But please separate emotion from scientific fact. The function and results of using “alien” genes is

well known and accepted by both farmers and the scientific community.

As for labeling, a simple solution is to make it voluntary. We can assume that almost any processed product we buy today contains GMO ingredients, so who needs a label to tell us that? If you happen to produce a food without genetic manipulation, then by all means you can

proudly label it as such. Problem solved.

Brian Steinwand

St. Albans