Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 05, 2004

Medicare offers a better way to compare prices

While I appreciate Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin's interest in helping seniors, his proposal is a little late and a little short - as the Medicare-approved drug card price comparison Web site already offers seniors the opportunity to compare drug prices online ("Cardin seeks national site for comparing drug prices," June 26).

As a result, seniors are saving money right now.

Beneficiaries, by going online at www.Medicare.gov or calling 1-800-Medicare, can compare drug prices for the medications they take and the pharmacies where they are offered. Then they may choose the discount card that best serves their specific needs.

The Maryland program on which Mr. Cardin is modeling his idea offers only a limited list of 25 drugs. The Medicare-approved card program, however, lists prices in 209 specific categories of drugs, including the most popular drugs taken by seniors.

For brand-name drugs, average discounts range from 11 percent to 18 percent off retail prices. The card offers 30 percent to 60 percent off the price of generic drugs and up to 24 percent off mail-order prices compared with prices available to all Americans with drug coverage. And for low-income seniors, there is the additional benefit of a $1,200 credit over the next 18 months.

Signing up for a Medicare-approved card is easy. After calling 1-800-Medicare, all seniors need to do is know their ZIP code, drug names and dosages and monthly income.

That's all the information Medicare needs to create a personalized report that includes a short list of the best cards and pharmacies where they are accepted.

William A. Pierce

Washington

The writer is deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Teachers' federation complies with law

In "Teachers' pet party" (Opinion

Commentary, June 24), Linda Chavez unloads completely baseless, inaccurate accusations against her former employer, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and its political activity. The AFT enjoys lively political discussions, but when someone smears us with falsehoods about our political work, we must set the record straight.

The AFT spends member dues appropriately and legally to educate our members about candidates' positions on issues of concern to them and the people they serve.

AFT's Committee on Political Education (COPE) accepts voluntary political action funds from AFT members, makes donations to candidates and political parties, and reports all activity to the Federal Election Commission. This information can be checked in public records.

The AFT bases its endorsements and contributions on membership surveys to ensure that we reflect our members' sentiments.

Ms. Chavez alleges that the AFT skirts tax laws with its political funds.

However, in strict compliance with applicable law, the AFT does, in fact, pay taxes on COPE voluntary contributions that are placed in interest-bearing accounts. The income tax returns are filed, and tax, as due, is paid to the Internal Revenue Service.

Edward J. McElroy

Washington

The writer is secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers.

Sanctions won't win battle against Castro

The Bush administration's new sanctions against Cuba will not damage the Castro regime, but will have sad and wrenching consequences for the families whose visits and help to Cuban relatives will be severely limited.

The Sun's editorial "Squeezing Havana" (June 30) was correct that 44 years of sanctions against Cuba have failed to bring down the Castro regime. One reason is that most other countries have continued to trade with Cuba. Also, sanctions build Cuban resistance against intimidation by the United States.

The best way to change the Cuban regime is to allow a broad range of visits and communications between Americans and the Cuban people.

President Bush's pandering to hard-line anti-Castro elements in Florida will accomplish nothing worthwhile.

Raymond S. Gill

Crownsville

Freedom Academy has key advantages

As a retired counselor from the Baltimore public schools, I read Tanika White's article about the Baltimore Freedom Academy with great interest ("Freedom Academy ends first year with hopes, changes," June 26). Several facts deserve comment.

With 105 students and eight teachers, the academy would have an average class size of 13 to 15 students. This compares with typical classes in comprehensive high schools of around 35 students. Given these student-faculty ratios, it is no wonder that teachers were able to connect with students and provide extra help.

And what miracles could teachers work in Baltimore's public schools with classes one-third to one-half their present size? These are the teachers who struggled through a year of layoffs, cutbacks and threats of takeover and still posted remarkable gains in test scores.

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