Medicare cuts could harm senior citizensI am...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Medicare cuts could harm senior citizens

I am glad to hear Congress talking about the need to preserve and protect Medicare for current and future generations, but I am not convinced that lawmakers who support major cuts to the program are telling us the whole story.

Everyone agrees that deficit reduction is necessary to ensure the country's continued economic strength.

But deficit reduction that focuses primarily on Medicare and Medicaid is not fair, because it puts the burden mostly on middle- and lower-income families.

Lawmakers who have targeted Medicare say the cuts are necessary to save the trust fund from going broke by the year 2002.

I can understand Congress wanting to ensure trust fund solvency, but Congress clearly wants to take more than is necessary right now.

Moreover, some members of Congress are proposing an arbitrary spending cap for the Medicare program. How would such a cap work?

Will we still get the health care we need?

Will it cost us more out of our own pockets?

Can we still expect quality care?

And why isn't Congress focused on holding down all health costs, so health care could be more affordable for everyone?

I've heard the average beneficiary could expect to see their out-of-pocket costs for health care increase by $3,400 over the next seven years.

That may not sound like a lot, but for many older Americans, $3,400 in unexpected expenses we haven't planned for could be devastating.

I'm willing to pay my fair share, but the Medicare cuts Congress has proposed will make access to health care much more difficult for most older Americans, and that's a shame.

I understand the need to reform Medicare, but I don't understand why Congress wants to cut the program so deeply and quickly without first carefully considering the personal and economic impact such actions may have.

dna D. Butcher

Baltimore

What's the line?

In your July 12 editorial concerning the suspension of University of Maryland athletes for gambling, The Sun strongly criticized the athletic director and university for criticizing the sanctions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

I think The Baltimore Sun should take a first step and make a strong statement regarding the gambling problem by eliminating all betting lines from the paper, just as you made a positive move in removing gun sales from the paper.

Anthony Deares

Baltimore

Thanks, firemen

On a recent trip from my home in Slidell, La., to Baltimore to attend a birthday party and family get-together, I had an unbelievable experience.

About to depart from Baltimore (at Pennington and Patapsco avenues in the Brooklyn-Curtis Bay area), I had a flat tire. My wife, her 97-year-old mother and I were heading for Rising Sun, Md., for the celebration.

I had never had to change a tire on my 1993 Aerostar, which stows the small spare tire beneath the back floor. It was hot and I was stunned, to say the least.

While I pondered my action, it happened. A beautiful yellow fire engine came along and stopped.

I thought I was about to be reamed out for parking where I had stopped. No; five firemen surveyed my problem and went to work. In no time, they had me on my way again. I could not believe my good fortune.

I did not get the number of the fire truck, but these men will know who they are; this was on Father's Day.

My everlasting thanks to these men of character, for going "over and above the call of duty."

ou Muehlberger

Slidell, La.

Unsung heroes

I had the heart-breaking experience recently of saying goodbye to my closest friend, a little stray dog I found on my lawn 14 years ago.

I had planned to adopt another dog that needed a home, so I visited four Baltimore County shelters and two Baltimore City shelters. I found Dolly at the Baltimore City Municipal Animal Shelter.

Baltimore City gets a lot of criticism, especially from Baltimore County residents (of whom I am one) who often never visit the city except to take in the tourist attractions. But the city can be proud of its animal care.

The staff who run the shelter should be commended by Mayor Kurt Schmoke for providing the cleanest, most efficient and most caring of all the places I visited.

The front office personnel, the custodial staff, the "vet-techs" and the caretakers who deal directly with the "tenants" were uniformly helpful and totally committed to finding homes where the adoptees would be loved and well cared for.

So hats off to the often unsung heroes who give their time and affection to potential animal friends.

Jean C. Sisk

Towson

Comcast captive

On July 7, my family returned to our home in Baltimore County from a two-week vacation. Our cable television reception was noted to be very poor, and we requested repair service from Comcast.

Four days later, a technician came to the house and was unable to make the necessary repairs because he lacked the proper equipment and needed to enter our home when nobody was home.

We had been told that we did not need to be home at the time of the repair visit. The repairman left a note that we should schedule a subsequent visit.

Before leaving, however, he made an adjustment in the system which resulted in our losing all reception. We later called Comcast and made arrangements for the follow-up service, but the repairman failed to show at the appointed time.

We telephoned Comcast on three occasions that same evening and listened patiently to recorded messages telling us that "the next available service representative will be with you shortly."

L Each time, we gave up in frustration after 30 to 45 minutes.

It is my feeling that we have received very poor service from the Comcast cable monopoly.

I am particularly distraught that the company is unable to provide its captive customers with a mechanism to request service unless they are willing to listen to an answering machine for more than two hours.

With today's new technologies, it should be possible to provide better service at a lower price by replacing the monopoly enjoyed by the Comcast system with competing cable companies.

Marshall A. Levine

Stevenson

Unfair justice

There is an emptiness in my heart that words will never replace. On July 6, my wonderful uncle, Milton A. Stuck, was killed by a drunk driver.

Not only was this fatal accident unprovoked, the criminal in this case was intoxicated, at 9 a.m., driving on a suspended license. This was his fourth offense . . .

My uncle was married for over 51 years, had a daughter, a son and a grandson, numerous nieces and nephews, friends and neighbors, asking the same question over and over again.

Why?

Why in this state -- and in this nation -- do we, as a society, repeatedly let attorneys plea bargain the criminal element back onto the streets of our communities?

And why do judges continually allow probation before judgment in cases where a person states his remorse for a previous action?

If that is the case, and violence is violence, and murder is murder, be it with an assault weapon or a car, criminals need to be severely punished for their actions, not led to the door of rehabilitation.

Instead of reacting, we definitely need laws on our books that specificly state what will happen after the first offense, and after the second.

This can only happen by telling our elected officials of our anger, informing them that we are mad as hell and telling them "Here is what we believe you need to do about it to protect us."

At that time, we will have prosecutors who protect our rights and judges who will enforce these laws.

Maybe, only then, my uncle's life will not have been in vain.

Al Liebeskind

Columbia

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