Making health care available to us all

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Jay Hancock was correct in his column "A Mass-style health plan merits Md.'s attention" (July 23) that we can learn some important lessons from the health care law Massachusetts recently enacted.

We should, as Mr. Hancock suggests, join Massachusetts in coming up with innovative ways to reduce health care costs for small businesses and in requiring high-income individuals without health care insurance to pay their fair share for the cost of health care.

These ideas have been a part of our "Health Care For All" plan since 2002.

Mr. Hancock leaves out, however, one of the most important things the new Massachusetts law did -- it significantly expanded the state's Medicaid program to provide health care for lower-income people.

This is one of the best ways to expand health care because it brings substantial new federal health dollars into the state.

Mr. Hancock is also mistaken in dismissing the Fair Share Health Care law that requires large businesses to do their fair share on health care because one federal judge found that it violated a technical federal legal requirement.

State Attorney General J. Joseph Curran is going to appeal this decision and, we believe, prevail in upholding this important health care measure.

Large, profitable businesses, just like wealthy individuals, must be required to chip in to the health care system; otherwise, they are, in effect, free-loading on the rest of us.

It is only by combining all of these good ideas, from other states and our own, that we can achieve our common goal of quality, affordable health care for all Marylanders.

Vincent DeMarco

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative.

Why can't Wal-Mart offer better benefits?

Maybe U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz was right in his legal analysis and ruling on the "Wal-Mart Law." However, the lawsuit itself raises the issue of why the legislature felt compelled to pass this law in the first place ("Ehrlich takes issue with appeal," July 23).

Why does a corporation of the size (and profit margin) of Wal-Mart have to be forced to provide adequate medical insurance to its employees?

Why does Wal-Mart, which makes obscene amounts of money on a daily basis, not provide decent medical benefits for its employees?

I'm mystified as to how such large corporations can pay their executives and board members six- and seven-figure salaries and bonuses but cry about benefits for their rank-and-file employees.

Larry Rogers

Baltimore

Smokeless tobacco may be health boon

Steve Chapman's column on smokeless tobacco products was great ("Strange weapon against smoking," Opinion * Commentary, July 17).

I've been using smokeless tobacco for about a year. It has reduced the number of times I smoke and it tastes good.

Why do anti-smoking activists also oppose smokeless tobacco?

If the goal is to save the lives of smokers by helping them reduce smoking or quit, smokeless tobacco is a far better choice than drugs or gum.

And it saves non-smokers from the threat of secondhand smoke.

Are professional anti-smoking activists putting their careers and ideology ahead of the public's health?

Joseph L. Bast

Chicago, Ill.

The writer is president of the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank.

Attacks from the air no way to win peace

Victor Davis Hanson seemed to threaten the people of Syria and Iran with "massive attacks from the air... by the West" even as hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Christians in Lebanon were being terrorized by massive air attacks from Israel ("West's patience with Islamists is wearing thin," Opinion

Commentary, July 21).

Israel, which Mr. Hanson greatly praises,has massively attacked peoples and countries of the Middle East for more than 50 years, with no end yet in sight.

But injustice, foreign occupation and "massive attacks from the air" will never bring peace to Israel.

Najad Tuffaha

Columbia

Punishing civilians isn't Israel's goal

Steve Chapman's column "Lessons on the limits of military power" (Opinion * Commentary, July 24) overlooked the big picture of the current crisis in Lebanon. And, contrary to his suggestion, Israel is not engaged in the "systematic punishment of citizens."

Israel's current operations are taking a toll on civilians because Hezbollah has recklessly placed many of its assets in the midst of civilian populations.

Innocent civilians of Lebanon are suffering because of this, and because of Hezbollah's deliberate provocation of Israel in its raid across an international border to kidnap two Israeli soldiers and kill eight others. Civilians are suffering, too, because Lebanon's government has been unable or unwilling to establish its authority over South Lebanon, where Hezbollah has roamed free and armed.

These deaths are tragic. But it is also true, as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations has noted, that if Israel succeeds in its anti-terrorist campaign, Lebanon will be the beneficiary.

The presence of Hezbollah is robbing Lebanon of the opportunity to build a truly democratic and free society.

Thus, it is time to get rid of terrorist threat "once and for all."

Bianca Merbaum

Fairfax, Va.

Capturing pathos of refugees' return

What a beautifully poignant photo of Fayad Kazan, waiting, gift-laden, at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall airport ("At BWI, joyful reunions are worth the long wait," July 23).

The five small American flags in one of his bags were a very nice touch.

Molly Kinnaird Johnston

Glen Arm

Proud of state effort to aid the evacuees

Marylanders should be proud of the concerted efforts made by the many state agencies and state employees who worked to receive U.S. citizens repatriated to this country through Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport ("Anxiety marks return," July 22).

And, as a member of the repatriation team headed by the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, I was proud of the many state employees who compassionately and professionally assisted and comforted Americans evacuated from war-torn Lebanon.

I witnessed people, who had put in many hours assisting the evacuees, escort them to flights at the opposite end of the international terminal, only to return and, with a tired and gracious smile, do it again.

The Red Cross, ever-so efficient, was on hand to provide the nourishment children and their parents needed after traveling for up to 96 hours, sometimes with little or no water or food.

Also on hand were toys for the children to briefly divert their attention from their chaotic situation.

Maria-Elena Perez

Dundalk

The writer is a database administrator for the Maryland Department of Budget and Management.

Flaws in system blamed for deaths

The saga of Raymont Hopewell offers a harrowing look at Maryland's law enforcement agencies ("Evidence uncollected, crimes undeterred," July 16). Like many Marylanders, I was appalled by the number of flaws in the system, which allegedly allowed Mr. Hopewell to rape and to kill elderly women again and again.

One can only hope that, sooner rather than later, the defects in the system can be corrected, and families such as the ones profiled in Stephen Kiehl's article will no longer have to suffer similar traumas.

Charlie Chambers

Middle River

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