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Cutting MedicaidSenate and House budget committees have...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Cutting Medicaid

Senate and House budget committees have called for billions be cut from both Medicare and Medicaid over the next few years.

When people hear Medicare, they usually think of older people. When they hear Medicaid, they may associate it only with welfare.

But consider that half of all Medicaid recipients are children who rely on this program to pay for their health care.

Many of these children are not statistics to our staff at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital. They are patients and families struggling to deal with a serious illness or a long-term recovery period.

Any child's illness can put pressure on a family. But a working family that relies on programs like Medicaid to help them make ends meet has extra burdens.

Without the Medicaid program, fully four out of every 10 American children would have no health coverage, and half of all infants born would be uninsured.

In addition to spending cuts, the other idea legislators are pushing is changing Medicaid into a block grant to states. This would effectively end the entitlement status of the program.

If that happens, how will children in working families who cannot afford health insurance now ever gain access to health care? In Maryland, Medicaid provides coverage for approximately 19 percent of children under age 18.

In just one year in this country, the number of people without health insurance has grown from 39 to 41 million.

Eliminating the entitlement status of programs like Medicaid would have the effect of pushing even more people into the uninsured category.

And, consider the imbalance that exists: Non-elderly adults and children make up 70 percent of the Medicaid rolls -- yet they receive only 29 percent of the funds.

The rest (nearly 70 percent) goes to the elderly, blind, and disabled, who make up only about 27 percent of those who receive Medicaid. Cutting Medicaid is really cutting both children and seniors out of care.

Most of the press and public attention regarding the budget and health care has been focused on the Medicare program.

But the effects of Medicaid cuts on children, the disabled and the elderly could be devastating. Children don't earn a paycheck and can't vote -- giving them a political and economic disadvantage.

On behalf of the many children we treat each year, we urge Congress to maintain a minimum federal eligibility for all children that is based on family income rather than welfare status -- to guarantee children continued access to care and pediatric providers.

Francis A. Pommett Jr.

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Mt. Washington Pediatric Health System.

It's the Children

As a teacher completing his third year of work in BaltimorCounty, I have followed with interest the recent articles in The Sun concerning Stuart Berger's reappointment as school superintendent.

Perhaps the most interesting article was the one which appeared on June 16. In it Councilman Vince Gardina called for a new superintendent who would be "more capable of dealing with parents, teachers and elected officials."

As one of many teachers in the county who has witnessed first hand the many positive changes implemented by Dr. Berger, I found it most interesting that nowhere did Mr. Gardina mention children.

As a teacher, I have always been under the impression that they are to be our primary focus.

The fact that Councilman Gardina omits children from his criteria gives some insight as to why the Board of Education and not the County Council will decide whether or not to renew Dr. Berger's contract.

Christopher Battaglia

Bel Air

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Antique Dealers

I have been the owner of Amos Judd & Son on Howard Street for 22 years, and as president of Howard Street's Antique Row Association, I want to voice my deep concern about your destructive front page article on June 18.

Because a thief was able to fool our dealers, just like he was able to fool the family that hired him into thinking that he was an honest person, is no reason to slander the reputation of honorable dealers trying to earn a living.

Antique dealers are not in the same category as pawn shop owners. Many customers are our friends. The six dealers mentioned in your article are my best friends, and I would stake my reputation on their honesty.

In fact, Philip Dubey, the vice president of the Antique Row Association, assisted the police by identifying the thief using his copy of the Pawn Shop Unit report that he had filed, and he helped the victim's daughter by walking Antique Row store by store for an hour and a half looking for any of the missing items.

How sad it was to see you suggest that the dealers on Antique Row are basically greedy dishonest store owners.

In reality, the owners mentioned in your article have not deserted the city but have been the city's largest supporters in an area that needs your help, not your poison pen.

If the dealers thought that they were buying stolen merchandise, would they have had it in their stores? Of course not. If these dealers were dishonest, the merchandise would have been sent out of state to auction.

Now the dealers who are the very individuals who helped Susie Swann recover her stolen property are being pilloried in the press for their allegedly dishonest business dealing.

This is not about a front page police crackdown on criminals. In fact, the only thing criminal was your article.

James E. Judd

Baltimore

America Will Never Be Colorblind

An ugly, divisive battle against affirmative action has been declared by some in conservative Republican leadership positions. Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole said, "We need a color-blind society."

I would say "amen" to that, except that the use of the term "colorblind society" -- rather than "a fair society" -- casts the forthcoming affirmative action struggle in a distorted light, perhaps deliberately so. He neglected to also say "a gender-blind society."

America has never had a "color-blind" society. It was not "colorblind" before the affirmative action laws were passed. It has not been "color-blind" during the time the laws have been in effect.

It will not be "colorblind" if every affirmative action program is dismantled. Senator Dole would like us to believe that the erasure of affirmative action programs would immediately result

in a "color-blind" society.

America has never had a "gender-blind" society either. The largest, single "minority" group to profit from affirmative action has been white women.

If they believe that the same grandfathers, fathers, brothers, uncles and other white males who required them to fight to gain the right to vote, hold office, secure equal educational opportunity and employment commensurate with their abilities will treat them fairly without the weight of the law on their side, I think that they are mistaken.

Women -- white women -- still write about "glass ceilings" despite the massive improvement in their circumstances, much of it gained because of affirmative action remedies.

The truth is that we cannot, by the very nature of our physical makeup, be either "color-blind" or "gender-blind."

As decisions are made requiring persons to meet others face-to-face, they are distinguishable in most instances by gender and race. While we cannot be "blind" to our differences, we can and must become fair in our judgments, whatever the race or gender might be.

The only completely color-blind/gender-blind test I am aware of exists in the symphonic music world when applicants play their instruments completely hidden from the jury that judges their competence.

In addition to linking affirmative action to color-blindness, the next sally will be to link it to "quotas." The undiscerning will buy this linkage and think only of African-Americans and not women, Asians or other groups that are protected by affirmative action measures.

"Quotas" are a minimal aspect of the affirmative-action remedies now employed. But at the same time, I challenge opponents of affirmative action to disclose how to judge progress if numbers (not quotas) are not used.

We should cease our references to color-blindness. Our discussions should be about fairness.

While some want to completely dismantle the affirmative-action programs that now exist, we should examine those hundreds of cases still pending in the equal opportunity sections of the various branches of our governments.

We also should continue to note the numerous cases that are being settled for hundreds of thousands of dollars without any admission of guilt by those charged with gender and race discrimination.

Fairness must be the key to America's future. It will not be achieved any time soon, if ever, by the elimination of affirmative action.

What is needed, in my view, is more substantial penalties rather than the slap on the wrist that many confirmed violators now receive.

Benjamin C. Whitten

Baltimore

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