Raise tobacco tax to fund health care


December 01, 2006

It's good news that Del. Peter Hammen, the chairman of the House Health and Government Operations Committee, has said he could support an increase in the state cigarette tax if the money "truly provides greater access to health care services" ("Group pushes cigarette tax," Nov. 21).

Today, about 800,000 Marylanders lack health insurance. When they come down with severe illnesses, all of us pay the cost through higher hospital bills and insurance premiums.

To change this situation, the Maryland Hospital Association is proposing four steps to drastically reduce the number of uninsured.

First, extend Medicaid eligibility to low-income parents of kids already receiving health care under the Children's Health Insurance Program. This would take 120,000 people off the rolls of the uninsured.

Second, duplicate New York's successful reinsurance program that has sharply cut insurance premiums for small businesses, which have the most trouble finding affordable insurance for workers.

Third, require middle-income and higher-income individuals to have health insurance or risk losing their state personal income tax exemption.

Fourth, use tax incentives to encourage businesses to implement effective preventive health and chronic disease management programs -- which is the best way to lower medical costs, while improving worker well-being.

Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley and the 2007 legislature should act on these or similar proposals.

The cigarette tax provides a funding mechanism that can make the expansion of health insurance coverage a reality.

Benjamin F. Mason


The writer is board chairman for the Maryland Hospital Association.

Mercy more critical than old rowhouses

I write to follow-up on Jill Rosen's article concerning Mercy Medical Center and the proposed new tower addition ("Houses stripped of protection," Nov. 26).

I have worked at Mercy Medical Center for more than 30 years. My family has been associated with Mercy for more than 60 years.

However, we are but newcomers to Mercy and its 130-plus years of service to the citizens and community of Baltimore.

The hospital has been through the fire, the wars, the riots, the exodus to the suburbs and the renewal of downtown Baltimore. And we're still here. We are very much a part of the history of Baltimore.

Old buildings are certainly important to the city. They do add to the culture and fabric of what we are.

In the bigger picture, however, a vibrant and functional Mercy Medical Center is more important to the city than old houses.

Dr. Larry Fitzpatrick


The writer is chairman of the surgery department at Mercy Medical Center.

Creating `realities' through judicial fiat

Two Tuesday front-page articles indicate that many people now think that the judicial system can create new realities by mere fiat.

Apparently traditional marriage -- based on the psychological, sociological and anatomical design of man and woman -- no longer meets the evolving notions in the minds of some of what is "right."

So cloaked lawyers are asked to decree into existence a new kind of marriage ("Still standing up for rights, respect," Nov. 28).

And in the next judicial spectacle judges may actually decree that carbon dioxide -- the gas that sustains all plant life on Earth -- is a pollutant ("City in suite on climate change," Nov. 28).

Conveniently excluded from this debate, I'm sure, will be a few inconvenient facts such as the far greater greenhouse effect of water vapor or the extra-terrestrial climate-altering effect of solar variations.

Then again, maybe the judiciary can turn water vapor and solar variations into pollutants, too.

Oh, what an imaginative judicial process can do.

Charles Clough

Bel Air

Imposing liberty inspires hostility

Conservative columnist Victor Davis Hanson attempts to "re-examine" our policy of bringing democracy to the Mideast and supports maintaining "tough idealism" by staying the course ("Mess of Middle East requires confrontation," Opinion * Commentary, Nov. 27).

Mr. Hanson would do well to heed the advice of another conservative, Robert A. Taft, Republican senator from Ohio.

Known as "Mr. Republican," Mr. Taft had problems with America imposing democracy on the rest of the world.

He presciently stated that, "It is based on the theory that we know better what is good for the world than the world itself. It assumes that we are always right and that anyone who disagrees with us is wrong. It reminds me of the idealism of the bureaucrats in Washington who want to regulate the lives of every American along the lines that the bureaucrats think best for them."

Unfortunately, Mr. Taft was ahead of his time.

Arthur Laupus


Civil war or not, it's time to head home

Is it a civil war in Iraq or not ("A war of words over Iraq," Nov. 28)? Who cares?

The pressing question is, will the United States withdraw now or later?

President Bush is proceeding as if the election hadn't happened and the voters hadn't told him: "Enough. Get out!"

Grenville B. Whitman

Rock Hall

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