Hospital CostsIn regards to the Health Service...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Hospital Costs

In regards to the Health Service Cost Commission's plan to shift costs, the drop of $96 at Johns Hopkins for an appendectomy is not the problem. The problem is that after the drop, the cost is $5,097.

It would be more reasonable for the Health Services Cost Review Commission to run a limousine service to other hospitals in the state, so that a reasonable facility fee could be paid for an appendectomy.

Five thousand dollars for an appendectomy is outrageous. On the other hand, managed care will simply solve this problem by directing patients away from high-cost arenas.

Joseph H. Cutchin Jr., M.D.

Salisbury

Ph.D. Glut

Daniel Greenberg's June 27 Opinion * Commentary piece purports to explain why there are too many Ph.D.s coming out of graduate schools. It's simple: blame it on the faculty, who need students to justify their positions and provide intellectual stimulus.

Were it so simple.

Daniel Greenberg has tried to explain the demand for Ph.D. students in graduate schools; why faculty would find intellectual stimulation "regardless of ups and downs in the quality of applicants" is left unanswered.

But he does not bother to explain the supply, that is, why students would continue to apply in such numbers to graduate programs, when faced with job prospects as disheartening as those he describes.

Part of the answer lies in the duration of graduate school: four or even six years elapse between the decision to apply to graduate school and entry into the labor market.

Who can forecast job market conditions that far ahead? As a result, there will necessarily be periods when jobs are fewer than candidates, as has been the case since the recession of 1990.

Over the long term, however, it's hard to imagine applicants paying no attention whatsoever to the placement results of the schools they are applying to.

"The university system has never been particularly permeable to logic," he concludes. His own porousness to common sense is open to question.

Francois R. Velde

Catonsville

The writer is assistant professor of economics, Johns Hopkins University.

AIDS Illogic

Two articles in your July 15 edition perfectly illustrate the politics and illogic that dictate how our country deals with AIDS and those who carry the deadly retrovirus HIV-1 that can be spread through contact with bodily fluids.

In one article, the homosexual lobby is obviously involved in the persecution of a letter carrier who refuses to deliver to a new AIDS victim hospice set up on his route, fearing transmission through saliva of the victims licking the stamps of their letters.

However, in another article on the same day, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals correctly upheld a rapist's conviction on attempted murder charges because he knew he was infected with the HIV virus and raped his victim anyway, thus exposing her to the disease.

What is important about the decision is that Judge John Bishop, wrote that Texas and New Jersey courts had made rulings in similar cases, both involving inmates or suspects who spit saliva at guards or police.

Indeed, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran is quoted as saying, "If the HIV person on the street or in a prison is thinking about spitting upon . . . someone in a custodial situation, there's now an attempted murder charge that he has to think about."

I guess what we've learned here is that HIV is only contagious through saliva if you're a guard or cop in Maryland, but not if you're a postal worker in West Virginia.

Todd N. Wissing

Cary, N.C.

Rival Signals

While I can sympathize with classical music listeners in Baltimore looking for alternatives for the now defunct classical format at WJHU-FM, Morris Grossman's July 19 suggestion that the signal of WGMS-FM (103.5) in Bethesda be directed to the Baltimore area is unworkable . . .

WGMS broadcasts at 47 kilowatts, just 3 kilowatts shy of the maximum signal strength the Federal Communications Commission allows in this area.

Its signal is sufficient for the Washington metropolitan area it is licensed to cover. It is not legally possible for the station to raise power enough or direct its signal to improve reception in Baltimore.

I'm an announcer at WXCY-FM (103.7), a modern country station in Havre de Grace adjacent to WGMS on the dial. Our 50 kilowatt signal is aimed away from Baltimore and Washington so as not to interfere with WGMS.

If it was possible for WGMS to improve its signal in Baltimore, that would interfere with WXCY's signal, possibly causing us to lose many of our listeners and much of our business in Harford County as well as in the parts of Baltimore County our signal also reaches.

For those listeners who can tune it in, WGMS certainly is a viable option for Baltimore's classical music lovers. However, Baltimore's classical music fans should not get the impression from Mr. Grossman's letter that it is possible for them to improve the signal of WGMS without adversely affecting another Baltimore area station.

Keith Thompson

Middletown, Del.

Leaky Buckets and Regulatory Reform

In a July 8 Gallimaufry, I was criticized for a statement I made on the WJHU morning show. During that appearance, I referred to a report issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regarding bucket safety as an example of unnecessary and excessive government regulation.

This criticism stemmed from my reference to this regulatory report as if it were itself a regulation. By focusing exclusively on this minute issue, the Gallimaufry piece clearly missed the larger message.

CPSC did indeed issue a 105-page report -- the product of thousands of hours of bureaucratic manpower -- regarding the issue of bucket safety.

Among the recommendations contained within that massive document is that industry produce five-gallon buckets with holes in them.

The CPSC report also mentions that industry representatives objected to this recommendation because they could "envision no use for a bucket that leaks." Who among us can, except for a handful of remote Washington bureaucrats?

The illogic of suggesting that manufacturers produce buckets with holes in them is self-evident. It is indicative of a failed command-and-control regulatory mindset that has ruled Washington unchecked for 30 years. It also raises a number of practical questions.

First, is bucket safety something best regulated at the federal level?

More children drown accidentally in swiming pools than in buckets, yet laws requiring people to build fences around their pools for safety reasons are typically implemented by states and localities.

Federal regulation should be the court of last resort -- not the first and only solution to every conceivable problem.

Second, is it possible for the federal government to regulate common sense?

Will sweeping federal involvement in issues such as bucket safety really save lives, or will such regulation, in practice, merely saddle our nation's businesses with more burdensome regulations that kill jobs and stifle economic growth?

During my campaign for Congress, I visited shopkeepers and small business owners in strip malls throughout the Second Congressional District. I introduced myself as someone who might be in a position to help in Washington and asked about the issues that mattered most to the continued health of their businesses.

By far, over-regulation was their most often cited concern. Clearly, the time to rethink our federal regulatory process has come -- even if federal bureaucrats and certain editorial writers refuse to acknowledge that real problems do indeed exist.

Regulatory reform has been and will continue to be a top priority during my tenure in Congress. As a member of the Speaker's Special Advisory Committee on Corrections -- a panel charged with identifying outmoded and just plain dumb laws and regulations which need correction -- I look forward to doing what I can do to make the lives of those small business owners a little bit easier.

Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.

Washington

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