Tracy Orwig: Specialty tier payments hurt patients

Health insurers in Maryland and throughout the country are jeopardizing patient health by dramatically and arbitrarily increasing the cost of vital medications. As insurers increasingly assign cancer treatments to so-called "specialty tier" cost structures, patients battling blood cancers and many other serious conditions are forced to pay prohibitively high out-of-pocket costs for their treatment, which causes many patients to go without treatment entirely. (Balt. Sun)

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Eric Rozenman: Supporters of marijuana legalization misread history

Support for decriminalizing recreational marijuana use and increasing its medicinal availability spreads like an oil spill. Colorado and Washington's decriminalization, coupled with President Barack Obama musing that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol — though he hopes his children will avoid the former as a bad habit — accelerate the change. Supporters seek to end so-called victimless crimes and regulate a popular activity wrongly stigmatized. Revenue-hungry states like Maryland, with Senate Bill 658, consider joining them. (Balt. Sun)

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Wayne Creed: In Northampton, yet another zoning tightrope

It was reported last week that the 501(c) Eastern Shorekeeper appears to have entered the fray over new Northampton zoning issues, essentially using a petition and a veiled legal threat to force the Board of Supervisors to follow the “intent” of the Comprehensive Plan. (Daily Times)

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March 11 // Another budget setback

The announcement last week by Maryland's Board of Revenue Estimates that the state will be taking in $238 million less in taxes this year and next was certainly unwelcome, and it complicates the already difficult task the General Assembly faces in enacting a balanced budget before it adjourns in April. The amount of tooth-gnashing it has prompted, however, is wildly out of proportion to its actual impact on the state's overall spending plans. (Balt. Sun)

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Pugh and Morhaim: Maternity wards at risk

This summer, Gov. Martin O'Malley and public health leaders justly celebrated the fact that infant mortality in our state has been driven to a new record low. By increasing access to care and outreach for new mothers and their babies — particularly in low-income communities — Maryland's infant mortality rate fell by 21 percent between 2008 and 2012. This is a tremendous achievement. But this hard won progress — as well as access for all expectant mothers — is at risk as we confront a looming obstetrics crisis: multi-million dollar medical malpractice judgments that are driving even higher the already high cost of medical liability. (Balt. Sun)

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Marijuana should be decriminalized

It is still possible that there will be unintended consequences from liberalizing laws on pot, and we should know those issues up front before all-out legalization. But we do believe that enough evidence is on the books to support decriminalization, which means those caught with small amounts — less than 10 grams — of marijuana would be subject to civil fines instead of possible jail time. It is somewhat shameful that rather trivial amounts of marijuana have landed people in jail and allowed governments to confiscate personal property and otherwise burden their lives. (Herald-Mail)

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Summers and Gill: Shale study should stick to timeline

In 2011, Governor Martin O'Malley issued an executive order giving the state departments of the environment and of natural resources a clear directive: Determine whether and how natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale in Maryland can be realized without unacceptable risk to public health, safety, the environment and natural resources. The order established the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative and instructed the agencies, in consultation with an advisory commission, to investigate and report back to the governor and the General Assembly. Today the comprehensive work being done by departmental staff and contractors is on track. Significant changes to this approach being advocated by some in the legislature are not only unnecessary but would likely undermine the effort. (Balt. Sun)

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With George’s bill, doctors and lawyers at odds again

 It’s a long-running battle of the interest-group titans, often played out in the General Assembly — the state’s doctors versus its lawyers. With House Bill 635, which had a hearing from the House Judiciary Committee last week, Del. Ron George of Arnold has tried to strike a blow for the health care professionals, and also for patients and family members who would like frankness from their doctors when things go wrong. In spite of the bill’s bipartisan support (the sponsors include Dels. Nic Kipke of Pasadena, a Republican, and Del. Ted Sophocleus of Linthicum, a Democrat), we wouldn’t bet on it getting anywhere. The legislature, as it demonstrated during the long debates over drunken driving laws, does not lightly take tools away from trial lawyers. (Capital)

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