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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Bill offers huge step toward care for all

We at the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative and the members of our coalition of more than 1,100 groups fighting for quality, affordable health care for all Marylanders applaud House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Del. Peter A. Hammen's proposal that would extend health insurance coverage to nearly 250,000 Marylanders ("Plan aims to help uninsured," Feb. 8).

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This bill is a great first step to make sure we get to the goal of access to care for every citizen.

The bill is full of great programs - including extending health care coverage to every child in Maryland, increasing our state's embarrassingly low income level for Medicaid eligibility for adults, promoting smoking cessation programs, adding money for effective drug abuse treatment services and providing real subsidies to small businesses across the state that want to provide health care to their employees but cannot afford to do so.

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This legislation also has new programs that just make a lot of sense, including requiring high-income residents to buy health insurance and letting youths stay on their parents' insurance plans until age 25.

Maryland taxpayers are spending $2.4 billion yearly to cover the costs associated with uninsured residents.

Mr. Busch and Mr. Hammen are correct to push to raise the tobacco tax to cut a significant chunk out of that price tag.

The time to act is now.

Matthew Celentano

Baltimore

The writer is deputy director of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative.

State can do better for the uninsured

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I would offer a huge thank you to House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Del. Peter A. Hammen for their efforts to expand health care to a significant portion of the state's uninsured ("Plan aims to help uninsured," Feb. 8).

In a state as wealthy as Maryland, it is truly unconscionable that we consider adults living at just 40 percent of the federal poverty line to be too rich to qualify for Medicaid.

We can and must do better at expanding health care access to everyone, not just from a social justice perspective but also from an economic one.

Those of us with health insurance are paying the costs of those who do not.

Instead of paying the price after the fact in expensive emergency room bills, the only sensible thing to do is reallocate those funds to pay for comprehensive primary care, including prescription drugs.

The state House of Delegates looks to be on the right track.

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Let's hope the Senate gets on board as well.

Devon Snider

Baltimore

Hospital matters more to city's future

I found it encouraging that Baltimore Heritage has ended its fight with Mercy Medical Center over the preservationists' effort to save a row of supposedly historic downtown houses ("Challenge to razing dropped," Feb. 6).

To try to pass off a group of houses as historically important while blocking the development of a new and very desirable medical facility would be a terrible injustice to those in need of medical attention.

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Walter Boyd

Baltimore

Tougher ID protects everyone's security

Many states have been making significant driver's license and ID security upgrades in the years since 9/11. They recognize that the state-issued ID has long been more than a license to drive ("Dump Real ID now," editorial, Feb. 1).

It is the key document for air travel, for banking, retail and health care transactions, for access to buildings and numerous other privileges.

The Real ID Act stands to bring the entire country up to a minimum level of ID security without a separate national ID card or a national database.

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In addition to combating terrorism, improved IDs will better protect us from identity theft and underage drinking and driving, and make everyday transactions requiring ID more efficient and reliable.

Rather than rejecting the Real ID Act out of hand, state leaders should wait to pass judgment until new regulations to implement the law are proposed for public comment.

As a former assistant secretary for homeland security, I know our security is only as strong as the weakest link - and that a rejection of the Real ID Act by any state will leave vulnerabilities that terrorists, criminals and other wrongdoers will seek to exploit.

C. Stewart Verdery Jr.

Arlington, Va.

U.S. likely to subvert Venezuela mandate

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The recent elections in the United States and in Venezuela have something in common: the heads of state were given mandates.

In the United States, the mandate was an absolute repudiation of the president's policies.

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez was elected in a fair election with an overwhelming plurality. His mandate was to continue the socialist revolution, which the Bush administration and corporate interests on both sides of the aisle fear.

Democratic and Republican members of Congress will do all they can to try to derail the will of the people of Venezuela simply because Mr. Chavez represents a new world order in Latin America and the U.S. is no longer in control.

But as Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger once said, referring to the election of a Marxist in Chile, the United States would not allow a country "to go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people."

As was the case in Chile, the days of Mr. Chavez's government are probably numbered.

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But this time, the blowback to America's standing among our remaining allies will be catastrophic.

Myles Hoenig

Baltimore

Publish next series on science achievers

After The Sun's in-depth series on the accomplished Edmondson-Westside High School's athletes ("The Big Game," Jan. 28-Feb. 1), I would suggest a series on the academic achievements of students such as those who have done so well in the Intel Science Talent Search competition.

They have been mentioned in passing in the news ("Polytechnic senior is science finalist," Feb. 1). But a series on them would be appropriate.

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Our society tends to give more importance and publicity to athletics than to academic achievements.

Perhaps that is one of our main problems.

Joy Shillman

Baltimore

The writer is a member of the Baltimore County Board of Education.

Nowak reminds us of human weakness

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We like to see our humanity through the prism of our heroic deeds, yet, less comfortably, we also see it through the magnifying glass of our human weaknesses.

That is why the plight of astronaut Lisa M. Nowak is not only tragic but poignant. For if our collective demons can consume one so brave, so talented, can they not consume the rest of us as well ("NASA plans to review psychological testing," Feb. 8)?

Now is not the time to wag the proverbial finger and pass judgment; that is the job of the local authorities.

Rather, it is for us to use this incident as a reminder of our own foibles and weaknesses, and do all that we can to bring aid and comfort to those hurt by these events.

Eric Dale Smith

Baltimore


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