Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 02, 2007

Charity care dollars can't heal uninsured

If only it were as easy as Peter L. Beilenson suggests to resolve the issue of funding health coverage for uninsured Marylanders ("Maryland sits on golden egg that could pay for health care," Opinon * Commentary, July 23).

Hospitals already are on the front lines of providing care and funding for the state's uninsured with community-based activities such as the family health center Maryland General Hospital runs at the city's Laurence G. Paquin School for pregnant teenagers and unwed mothers, Sinai's Park Heights Community Health Alliance, the Johns Hopkins Hospital's Community Psychiatry Program and many more programs like these.

Yet to make Dr. Beilenson's idea of redirecting charitable care dollars to help care for the uninsured work, valuable community programs such as these and many, many more, which help pick up the slack for state public health funding shortfalls, would have to be eliminated.

Is that what we want?

Dr. Beilenson also states that nonprofit hospitals are required to spend 5 percent of operating costs on community benefits.

While Congress is considering imposing such a regulation, no such mandate now exists.

And even if it did, Maryland hospitals already provide charity care and health-related community services at a rate of 7 percent of their total operating expenses. And that hardly puts a dent in the health needs of the state's uninsured.

Maryland hospitals do not keep the funding of charitable care a tightly held secret.

Hospitals make annual reports to a state regulatory agency documenting these financial contributions. Indeed, Maryland is a national leader in transparency and accountability in the reporting of health care costs, quality and community benefits.

Yes, there could be better coordination to enable more Marylanders to benefit from hospitals' community outreach.

But to claim that this money could be siphoned off to pay for health reforms ignores the important role these community services play in improving the health of our neighbors.

Calvin M. Pierson

Elkridge

The writer is president of the Maryland Hospital Association.

Exit exams unfair to the disadvantaged

Maryland would do well to change course to avoid the host of negative consequences that come with graduation tests ("School board to examine testing rules," July 25).

States with high school exit exams such as Massachusetts, California and Texas have seen increases in their dropout rates, with the increases disproportionately affecting low-income, minority and disabled students and English-language learners.

In Texas, a record number of high school students will be denied diplomas this year, with blacks and Hispanics hit especially hard.

Teachers, parents and students in exit exam states know that another result of these exams is that many schools engage in narrow teaching to the test, which artificially inflates scores.

And eliminating open-response questions so that only multiple-choice items are left, as Maryland state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick suggests, would only further narrow and dumb-down schooling.

As a result, those who do pass the tests will be less well-prepared for college.

Those who care about maintaining fairness and quality in Maryland public education should oppose any exit exam.

Monty Neill

Cambridge, Mass.

The writer is co-executive director of FairTest, an advocacy group critical of exit exams and other high-stakes testing programs.

Kiosks a challenge to harbor's integrity

My wife and I loved C. Fraser Smith's column "A new challenge at Harborplace" (Opinion * Commentary, July 29).

The kiosks that Harborplace's general manager has suggested will "bring some energy and life to this space" are just a charade to increase income for the developer.

Its kiosk merchandising policy seems to be to lease space to the highest bidder, with little or no attention to the quality of the goods sold.

Does that make the space more festive? Or just more congested with junk?

Baltimore could surely use a leader like former Mayor William Donald Schaefer now.

Larry M. Wolf

Baltimore

The writer is a former vice president and director of leasing for the Rouse Co.

Stop U.S. support for Israel's army

The article "U.S. plans huge arms sale to Gulf countries" (July 28) describes how the Bush administration plans to sell $20 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and several of its neighbors.

However, in order to please supporters of Israel, the United States has also promised Israel more than $30 billion in military aid over the next 10 years.

The article cites an administration official who says Israel needs this aid to replace equipment expended in its battle against Hezbollah in Lebanon last summer.

But it was Israel's decision to invade Lebanon, and in the process Israel ruined Lebanon's infrastructure and committed war crimes against Lebanese civilians by dropping large numbers of deadly cluster bombs.

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