Letters to the editor

February 13, 2005

Health Care Act a start, but doctors need more help

To the editor:

Recently, the Maryland General Assembly voted to sustain its passage of the Maryland Patients' Access to Quality Health Care Act. The legislation is a compromise that allows physicians and their patients a brief respite from the issues surrounding medical malpractice reform in Maryland. However, there is much that remains to be done.

Additional reforms should be one of the major goals of this legislative session. I encourage our legislators in Annapolis to extend the Good Samaritan Act to include emergency room health-care professionals, to set guidelines for calculating future economic damage awards and to structure annual payouts for all large settlements and awards. Washington County Hospital, as well as others across the state, will be working with legislators to institute these much-needed reforms.

Maryland needs to retain its well-qualified, dedicated physicians to ensure that patients have access to the best health care available anywhere. By working together with physicians, legislators, the governor and other hospitals, we can be successful - we must be successful - for the future of health care in the Old Line State.


James P. Hamill
President and CEO
Washington County Hospital

For affordable housing, base tax on square feet

To the editor:

Citizens for the Protection of Washington County commends the Washington County Commissioners for their decision to amend the excise tax ordinance. We believe their proposed plan is far superior to the present APFO method of collecting a "fair share" from developers.

However, this action is certain to, once again, raise the issue of affordable housing. And while there is probably no real solution to that problem, there are ways to offer some relief.

If the excise tax could be charged on a per-square-foot basis rather than a flat fee, it would help the folks who only want a small starter home.

At a rate of $5 per square foot, a 1,200-square-foot home would pay $6,000 rather than the proposed $13,000, and a 4,000-square-foot home would pay $20,000.

Those who want to be extravagant can well afford to pay the extra, and those who just want the bare necessities could maybe afford a home of their own. That would probably bring in as much revenue as the flat fee of $13,000 and, at the same time, help more people realize the American dream.

Jim Laird
President, CPWC

Elderly may suffer, but at least Wall Street is protected

To the editor:

Imagine my delight the other night while listening to President Bush's State of the Union address when I learned my Social Security benefits would be cut by up to 40 percent. What could I possibly do with the whopping sum of $1,300 a month I had been promised on my 62nd birthday? With the new, much more practical sum of $780 a month, I can surely maintain my current lifestyle in retirement, and I have the satisfaction of knowing my sacrifices will prevent Social Security from going broke in fast approaching year 2042.

Of course, it goes without saying that spending $1 billion a week in Iraq is far more important then preserving the archaic Social Security system that has (over) promised such vast retirement benefits.

I personally look forward to the day when we can spend 10 times that amount bringing the "transforming power of freedom" to Egypt, Kuwait, Syria, Jordan, Iran and about 20 or so African countries. After all, what's a little poverty among retired Americans when we can sow the seeds of freedom worldwide?

And, by the way, please don't refer to the Iraqi War as having anything to do with the futile search for weapons of mass destruction. I prefer to call our little intervention in Iraq the "War of Iraqi Liberation," as President Bush has told me is the correct name.

Now, I must admit my wife brings up the good point that our $780 a month in revised Social Security benefits may not pay for medical insurance if we retire before the current medicare eligibility age of 65.

I, myself, am not overly worried. It's true medical insurance for an older couple may run around $25,000 a year when we retire, but I have confidence President Bush and his fine advisers will come up with more first-rate "market-driven" programs to bridge the small gap between retirement income and medical insurance.

And speaking of fine programs, I think it's important to understand that President Bush's proposal to funnel up to 4 percent of payroll taxes into private retirement accounts is in no way influenced by his Wall Street supporters and financial contributors.

So what if 70 million Americans would be opening accounts managed - at least indirectly - by Merrill Lynch, Charles Schwab and other Wall Street investment firms? I've personally seen the president clearing brush on his farm in Crawford, Texas, read about his exemplary National Guard service during Vietnam and know his own relatives and those of his advisers are surely serving and dying in Iraq. Would the president really put Wall Street's interest ahead of ours? I really don't think so.

In sum, this is the greatest country in the world and I stand behind the president 100 percent. And if by some chance things don't work out quite as I expected, and I turn out to be a bitter 62-year-old man with no money, no medical insurance and a poverty-level lifestyle - well, there's always good minimum wage positions available.

Drew Birnbaum

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