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It's time America did away with 'bake sale' health care

September 20, 2006|by BOB MAGINNIS

Odds and ends from a columnist's notebook:

· On the bulletin board in my office are pictures of four small children. They're not my children, they don't look alike, nor do they belong to the same youth sports team.

The only thing they have (or had) in common is that they were stricken with major illnesses and needed the public's help to pay their medical bills.

Alivia Koontz of Hagerstown and Devin Fales of Keedysville are just the latest young people whose families have been forced to ask for the public's help because the care they need will probably cost more than their parents will earn in a lifetime.

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On Tuesday, The Herald-Mail ran an ad from a Frederick, Md., group raising money for a 5-year-old boy's heart transplant.

Didn't see it? Don't worry. On the counter of every convenience store, there is a canister that asks money for some child who has had the bad luck to inherit some genetic illness or contract a life-threatening disease.

I have written about many of these cases - so many, in fact, that I'm tired of doing it.

Not because these children don't deserve all the help we can give them, but because whether or not they get care shouldn't depend on whether people buy a ticket to a bonanza or a plate of cupcakes at a bake sale.

Such fund-raisers work because people in the Tri-State area are, by and large, compassionate and because a helpless child tugs hard on our heartstrings.

But here's what we don't often think about: If you're an adult in the same situation, the money is a lot harder to come by, unless your boss, your church and your co-workers really rally around.

It should not be this way and my vote in the U.S. Senate contest between Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and Rep. Benjamin Cardin will go to the one who offers a credible plan for national health care.

Don't offer me the old malarkey about your distaste for "socialized medicine." If your child or grandchild was deathly ill, you'd rob banks if that's what it took to keep the little one alive.

And while raising money for these kids makes us feel nice, there are other good causes, many involving children, that could use those same resources and commitment.

This will not be an easy fix, but if we were hiring these people just to shake hands and find lost Social Security checks, we could probably pay them a lot less than we do now.

· Pope Benedict's statement in regard to Islamic history has prompted a number of cartoonists and columnists to offer us stereotypical depictions of what they imagine "the Muslim state of mind" to be.

Don't expect to read them or view them on this page. We don't offend Christians in that way, although we've had some opportunities to do so in the past.

One syndicate sent us a cartoonist's reimagining the crucifixion as a modern event, with Christ and others waiting as a TV crew approaches from a distance.

Freedom of the press is a precious right that we will not use to give offense just because we can do so - or because the target holds beliefs that are unfamiliar to many Americans.

· Three members of the Washington County delegation will face opposition in November - Del. Richard Weldon, R-Washington/Frederick, Del. LeRoy Myers Jr., R-Allegany/Washington and Del. John Donoghue, D-Washington.

They and their foes are state-level candidates you'll be able to put on the spot and ask what they plan to do about Maryland's deregulation of electricity, which will hit this area when residential rate caps come off in 2008.

This is a pocketbook issue, so unless you've got an unlimited amount of money, speak up now.

· Speaking of money, Cindy Mason of the Western Maryland Research and Education Center in Keedysville called this week to say that during their Sept. 9 open house, someone lost a money clip with a wad of cash in it. So far, a search for the owner has been unsuccessful, she said.

If you can describe it, call her at 301-432-2767, ext. 301.

I wouldn't ordinarily run a lost-and-found item, but I'm curious: Who locally has so much money that they can afford to lose a big chunk of it and not call the places they visited to see if anyone found it?

Maybe, sadly, they concluded that anyone who found it would just pocket it. They were wrong, which makes me feel pretty darned good.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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