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The Baltimore Sun

Drug plan is helping seniors get medicine

Despite the headline of The Sun's article "Drug plan too costly for many" (Aug. 21), the survey the article referenced, which was conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund and Tufts-New England Medical Center, actually found that seniors enrolled in the Medicare drug benefit are less likely than those without it to have high monthly prescription drug costs or to skip medications because of cost.

The Medicare prescription drug program is providing large cost savings to millions of seniors and disabled Americans.

Just a few years ago, barely half of America's seniors had comprehensive prescription drug coverage.

Today, more than 90 percent of them do.

What's more, the survey highlights the benefits of the Medicare Part D low-income subsidy program in helping Medicare beneficiaries with limited financial resources.

These subsidies help limit out-of-pocket spending for the low-income seniors who receive them.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports that nearly 9.5 million beneficiaries received low-income subsidy help in 2007 and these subsidies had an average value of more than $3,300 per beneficiary.

Today, seniors are experiencing significant savings from the prescription drug benefit and getting much better access to the medicines they need.

At least 80 percent of seniors are satisfied with their Medicare prescription drug coverage, according to several independent polls sponsored by organizations such as AARP, the Medicare Rx Education Network and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In other words, this latest survey reinforces what we already know: The prescription drug benefit is working, and it is working well.

Ken Johnson


The writer is a vice president for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

President's legacy already tarnished

If President Bush is concerned about his legacy ("Understanding Rove's Clinton obsession," Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 24), he should know that, at this point, it is decorated with such adjectives as arrogant, incompetent, secretive, ideological, unreflective, embarrassing, petulant and smirky.

One adjective few observers would list is presidential.

To be presidential is to have the courage to acknowledge one's mistakes and change one's course, to speak the truth to the American people, to take responsibility for one's actions and be accountable, to bolster the credibility and moral authority of America and to be a leader and a statesman.

Being presidential is not about posturing as a muscle-flexing global bully or masquerading in a pilot costume aboard an aircraft carrier or pandering to big business or allying oneself with fundamentalists and warmongers or exploiting fear of terrorism for political gain or trivializing the Constitution or fertilizing Iraqi sand with American blood.

Finally, to be presidential is to unite the country, not to divide it.

Skip McAfee


Abroad, America is its own worst enemy

My congratulations to The Sun for the editorial "America, abroad" (Aug. 26).

It is a succinct analysis of a broad and complex set of problems. The editorial does not point fingers but instead points to specific policy changes.

The editorial is a blueprint that the powers that be in Washington should seize upon, embrace and legislate into action.

As Walt Kelly said in his comic strip "Pogo": "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Grover Crumbley

Ellicott City

Don't let diversity become a danger

Kudos to the writer of the letter "Cadet just wasn't fit to be a firefighter" (Aug. 25) for his hard-hitting look at the issue of diversity.

I hope his vision is embraced - otherwise, more people are sure to die.

Denny Olver


Teachers merit pay for planning time

The editorial "Rules of work" (Aug. 24) was wrong to criticize Baltimore's teachers.

The editorial accuses teachers of showing a "lack of concern for students" because the president of the teachers union called for teachers to adopt "work to rule" because of the current labor dispute.

But the teachers union's action is entirely justified.

As a teacher myself, I have never met another teacher who could complete all of his or her planning for classes in the time provided during the school day.

Every teacher I know does work at home - and lots of it.

Replacing planning periods with mandatory meetings, as the city schools want to do, would force teachers to make up the planning time at home.

This effectively would increase the number of hours they must work per day.

Teaching is not charity work; it's a career.

Most teachers are extremely concerned for their students. But they are also concerned about themselves and their families.

For their concern and hard work, teachers simply want to be treated fairly.

David Chipkin


Teachers display dedication daily

Baltimore schools are just the latest scene of the cynical attempt by officials to play the dedication card in the desperate hope that this will strengthen their position fighting the teachers union at the bargaining table ("Rules of work," editorial, Aug. 24). But this argument is a red herring.

When school systems find themselves at loggerheads with teachers unions, they often resort to this tactic because it has great emotional appeal with taxpayers.

But if concern for students were the real issue, new Baltimore schools CEO Andres Alonso would acknowledge that individual planning time by teachers is far more valuable than staff development.

The former directly affects teachers' instruction, while the latter merely embellishes administrators' resumes.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles

The writer is a former teacher and a former lecturer at UCLA's Graduate School of Education.

Officer had to shoot to do his tough job

A recent letter writer advocated specialized training for police officers "including lessons about mental illnesses that teach officers to understand that mental illness is not a crime but a disease" ("Learning to handle crises of mentally ill," letters, Aug. 23).

Unfortunately, the behavior of the young man recently shot by the police became a crime the minute he picked up a pellet gun ("Suicidal man fatally shot by police," Aug. 20).

The police officers saw a subject with a realistic-looking weapon, were told the subject was suicidal and had to act as they did to protect their lives and the lives of others in the area.

Let's not criticize police officers for trying to do their very difficult job.

Susan O'Connell


The writer has a relative who is a Baltimore police officer.

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