Struggle to get care is only too common

The Baltimore Sun

Stephanie Desmon's article concerning Shaneera Smith elicited a number of emotions for me - sadness, disgust and anger ("Life, death and health insurance," June 21).

Sadness because I lost a lovely daughter-in-law because of a similar situation at the very same age.

Disgust about the medical profession. The men and women in this profession take an oath to save lives when possible. However, if you can't "show them the money," you are often in deep trouble.

But my anger is toward our government. This country thinks of itself as superior to all others. But the fact is we are not.

Our standard of living is not the world's highest. Our infant mortality rate is disgusting. The number of medically uninsured people in this country is appalling.

Many say that we cannot afford a national health care plan. Yet every day I read about the billions of dollars spent on this unpopular war in Iraq.

It is time for Americans to start thinking about our own crumbling nation.

We need to invest our wealth in this country for our people and our infrastructure before all our cities wind up like New Orleans or like those Americans who are currently suffering in the Midwest because of inadequate levees.

When are we ever going to wake up?

Florence M. Dorsey, Ocean Pines

Sadly, Shaneera Smith's complicated struggle with the health care system is far too common. Thousands of uninsured and underinsured Americans face similar situations every year.

America's health care system is anything but healthy and can even be fatal. According to the Institute of Medicine, approximately 22,000 people die each year as a result of the lack of health care coverage. And the inability to pay medical bills is responsible for half of all personal bankruptcies in this country.

The onset of a serious illness forces uninsured people such as Ms. Smith to make impossible decisions between housing, food, health care and other basic life necessities. All too often, the result is homelessness - an experience that exacerbates health problems and complicates treatment.

Given that, according to a recent study by the Commonwealth Fund, about one-fourth of Americans lack adequate health insurance, it is past time that we join the rest of the world's industrialized nations in guaranteeing health coverage - universally and continually - for all medically necessary services.

The most efficient method to attain this goal is through a single-payer mechanism financed by a progressive tax system.

Only when we provide health care that is equal and accessible care to all Americans will we have achieved true health care reform.

Adrienne Breidenstine, Baltimore

The writer is a health policy organizer for the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.

Charities also need break on deduction

Sun reporters Hanah Cho and Lorraine Mirabella seem to give the Internal Revenue Service a pat on the back for raising the standard mileage deductible rate 8 cents ("IRS raises mileage deductible rate 8 cents," June 24).

However, they also appear to minimize the important work done by nonprofit human service organizations such as Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland by noting in passing that "the rate for providing services for charitable organizations, which is set by Congress, remains at 14 cents a mile."

After the rate increase set to go into effect tomorrow, the standard mileage deductible rate will be 58.5 cents per mile.

Yet in response to lobbying efforts over the years that seek to raise the mileage deduction rate for volunteers - efforts in which our organization has participated - Congress has only politely thanked us for our input.

As gas prices continue to increase, organizations like ours face a Sisyphean task of retaining our current volunteers and recruiting new ones.

We're open to any other forthcoming solutions from Congress, except encouraging our volunteers to buy bicycles.

A. Thomas Grazio, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.

Convert our cars to natural gas

There are all kinds of plans for new ways to power our vehicles, including Sen. John McCain's prize for a new battery ("$300 million bounty for better battery," June 24).

There are already cars and buses running on natural gas. I looked at a natural gas pipeline map and, guess what, there are pipelines all over the country.

Couldn't these existing pipelines be used to build and expand a network of natural gas fueling stations?

With the right incentives and funding, we could probably make significant progress replacing gas-powered cars with natural gas cars, and doing that shouldn't take years.

The nice part about this idea is that we are not dependent on the Middle East for our natural gas supplies, and exploring for additional natural gas would not cause environmentally toxic spills.

Ray Saperstein, Baltimore

Drilling at home keeps money here

Who does The Sun hate more: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and other dictators funded by oil imports, or our often-vilified "Big Oil"?

Putting aside the odd conflicting claims made in the editorial "The incredible fib" (June 23) that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off America's coast will not drastically increase oil supply but will at the same time result in huge profits for "Big Oil," I wonder if The Sun would rather see dictators getting America's oil spending?

It might help if the editors seemed to understand that "Big Oil" is a broad array of publicly owned companies whose stock is owned by millions of Americans.

So whether the profits are going to a Rockefeller trust fund baby or a retired oil-line repairman, let's let the oil money stay here in America.

Steve Krueger, Baltimore

Midshipmen minds are free to wander

The Supreme Court outlawed prayer in public schools because children are susceptible to undue religious influence given their young age. But I have little sympathy for the predicament of a small group of midshipmen who feel pressured to stand while a chaplain leads a mealtime prayer ("Mealtime prayer again under fire," June 26).

Midshipmen are adults and capable of independent thought. If saying grace offends them, their minds are free to wander.

While some see this as a church-state issue, to me it is a failure of imagination.

Carol Varley, Baltimore

A new punishment for child rapists

I cannot understand the controversy over punishment for the rapists of children ("Executions barred in rapes of children," June 26).

There is a simple solution here - castration.

This would also act as a deterrent to anyone harboring thoughts of this sick act.

Charlotte Bunn, Baltimore

Keep Big Bird, PBS well-funded

Thank you for the wonderful article "Sesame Street's Big Bird" (June 17) and puppeteer Carroll Spinney.

My children grew up with Big Bird, and we have supported PBS for many years. I am greatly concerned about President Bush's proposal to cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts ("Arts advocates seek more federal funding," April 2).

In a recent poll by Parade Magazine, 77 percent of readers answered "yes" to the question, "Should American tax dollars support PBS?"

As arts advocates have argued before Congress, federal funding for PBS should continue.

Catherine A. Miller, Parkton

Now hitting us up to pay their debts?

Isn't it a bit ridiculous that we have politicians out there spending untold millions to get elected, and then asking us for donations to pay off their debts ("Obama aiding Clinton," June 27)?

I, for one, think that it's past time for some real election reforms that will seriously reduce the outlandish spending that these candidates engage in.

For example, let's have all the primaries on the same day.

That would stop a tremendous amount of wasteful spending.

Jack Noppinger, Kingsville

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