Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

September 22, 2005

Cutting health coverage can hurt bottom line

Yes, health care costs are an increasing burden on companies' bottom line, but there are better ways to save money than eliminating employer-assisted health insurance ("Employer health costs rise 9.2%," Sept. 15).

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the number of companies offering health benefits to employees has dropped almost 10 percent in the last five years. This has major, long-term implications for our health and our health care system.

Workers without insurance often put off dealing with their medical problems. But putting them off is not a cure. It is a prescription for more serious health problems that cost more to treat.

Treating high blood pressure, for instance, is less costly than treating a stroke. Treating elevated cholesterol levels is preferable to open-heart surgery.

Rather than looking at health care as a cost driver, employers need to understand that wellness and disease-prevention programs are performance drivers.

Evidence shows that optimizing health and wellness can lead not only to healthier employees, but also to a healthier bottom line. Health care costs are better contained, absenteeism goes down and productivity goes up.

Employees are a company's most important asset. Business leaders who don't take care of their most important asset are risking not only their employees' health but the health of their company.

John Clymer, Washington

The writer is executive director of the Partnership for Prevention.

Inform the public of variance plans

I support the Baltimore County Council's bill to require that variance requests for development proposals be posted online to help inform the communities impacted by the proposed changes ("Balto. Co. asked to open land data," Sept. 19).

If the variances granted for developments were really minor changes, as the director of the county's Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management suggests, I doubt the County Council would be receiving so many complaints.

Baltimore County residents should have the right to be informed and involved prior to decisions about changes to developments in their communities.

Variances that erase tree buffers, increase density for housing and allow building in Chesapeake Bay critical areas and near streams are changes that are not "minute" in themselves.

And the sum total of the variances can have a huge impact on the health of communities, streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

Sue Fothergill

Baltimore

Teachers pushed to ignore the gifted

In his column "Best students tied down by busy work" (Opinion * Commentary, Sept. 15), Thomas Sowell argues that the best students are being ignored in public schools.

Having taught in Baltimore for the past three years, I can only agree. But Mr. Sowell misstates the cause.

This is not solely, or even mostly, the fault of teachers. It is a matter of policy.

As currently designed, the goal each year is to meet annual yearly progress (AYP) standards. These standards involve three levels: advanced, proficient and basic.

An increasing percentage of students must test above "proficient" each year; there is no benefit to having students test as "advanced."

A school that tests, for instance, 3 percent advanced and 56 percent proficient scores better than one that scores 25 percent advanced and 29 percent proficient.

As a teacher, I was told to worry about the "near-passers" and not to focus on the lowest of the low or the gifted - the better to achieve AYP.

It is school policy to ignore the gifted, not a teacher's choice.

Matt Hudock

Baltimore

Don't leave our kids bill for the storm

President Bush said Friday of rebuilding the Gulf Coast, "You bet it will cost money, but I'm confident we can handle it," without even hinting at how we were going to "handle it" ("Gulf Coast rebuilding may top $200 billion," Sept. 17).

President Bush came into office with a surplus. He then created the largest deficit in the history of the country and blamed it on the war on terror, when in reality much of it was the result of the tax cuts he pushed through - tax cuts skewed to favor the wealthiest Americans.

He promised to halve the deficit he created by 2009 but has done nothing to make that happen.

Now Hurricane Katrina will allow him to add to the deficit and he will be able to explain raising the national debt ceiling by blaming it on this natural disaster.

It is time to realize that President Bush intends to create so much debt that merely paying the interest will make it impossible to support programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

Hurricane Katrina relief must be paid for. But it can't be administered in a way designed to benefit corporations and wealthy Americans, and it can't be added to the untenable debt being left to future generations.

Tim Sharman

Baltimore

Burst of spending may revive inflation

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