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We have a disastrous health-care system

It is time that someone told the unvarnished truth about the "system" of health care in this country; it is by far the worst system of any country in the advanced nations of the world. Indeed, only a fool would design a system like ours in which health care is so controlled by the for-profit insurance industry and our citizens are so dependent upon employer-sponsored plans for coverage.

In fact, it should be obvious to anyone who gives the matter any thought that health care is as much a national responsibility as is our federal highway system, our national defense and our Social Security system. Simply put, our present "system" is a disastrous accident of World War II when unions negotiated health-care coverage to ameliorate wage controls. But employers can no longer afford the high cost of profit-motivated health care that impairs them from competing with their foreign counterparts, whose employees' care is provided by their governments.

The only answer is a basic, government-sponsored plan that covers all citizens. Its costs would be far less than those of private insurers, whose costs and excessive profits steal more than 30 cents of every premium dollar. That is why it is so disgusting to see that the major debate in Congress on health-care reform is whether it will permit any government plan. The real debate should be whether there should be a basic government plan for all citizens supplemented by private insurance for those willing to pay for nonbasic coverage.

PAUL A. MANION
Ross


Disingenuous GOP

I am frustrated with the way Republicans are opposing health-care reform. Health insurance reform is going to be painful, it's going to cost a lot of money and it's going to happen. The Republicans recognize the inevitability of this, and so they're trying to distance themselves from any hard choices.

They could choose to participate in the reform process and make sure there are protections against the doomsday scenarios they keep warning us about. But if they did anything to make the legislation better, they would be tainted by the inevitable negative effects of the changes (even if the positives outweigh the negatives). If they succeed in blocking any legislation, they can still blame everyone else for the inevitable increases in health-care costs.

The Republicans did the same thing with President Obama's stimulus package. They negotiated 40 percent of the stimulus in the form of tax breaks. Then they didn't vote for it, and now they're pretending they had nothing to do with anything. They're sitting back and complaining that the stimulus isn't doing its job and the deficit keeps getting larger, instead of manning up to the fact that they had any responsibility for crafting the stimulus in the first place.

I like to think of myself as an independent thinker, not a partisan. But there don't seem to be any Republicans trying to do anything useful on this issue (that I can see at least).

JOHN J. HRIZO
Regent Square


Gas taxes, not tolls

Tolls are stupid. They place all the tax burden on people who drive certain roads and none on others. Add to this the inconvenience of stopping at the tollbooth and the expense of paying tollboth operators to do a completely unnecessary task, and you get a very poor public policy option.

I know gas taxes are unpopular, but if you want to fund transportation based on who is using the roads, they're the fairest way to go -- plus they encourage local living, public transportation, carpooling and other choices that benefit us all. The Legislature should get a spine, tear down all Pennsylvania tollbooths and raise the equivalent amount of money (no fair raising more) from gas taxes.

JONATHAN ALDRICH
Squirrel Hill


To help the grieving

The July 25 First Person column by Arthur Lubetz, "The Invisible Man," was a sad commentary on the abandonment of those grieving the death of loved ones.

I am a bereaved mother and member of The Compassionate Friends, a self-help/support group for parents, grandparents and siblings who are grieving the death of a child. Most of our members report the same silence from family, friends and co-workers. We know they want to "fix" our grief, but they don't know what to say or do so they just do nothing, which makes us feel even worse. Margaret Mead wrote, "When a couple marries, we jubilate; when a baby is born, we rejoice; but when a person dies we pretend that nothing happened."

There is no quick fix for grief. In fact, it cannot be fixed. But what friends and family can do is validate and honor the loss by listening, by being there. This is called the "gift of presence." As Mr. Lubetz says, "in our youth-oriented culture, death is the ultimate insult." Dr. Sherwin Nuland writes in his book "How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter": "Death is not a failure. One out of one dies. No one gets out of this life alive."

Grievers should never be invisible. "Grief is lightened when friends sorrow with us," wrote Aristotle.

LILLIAN L. MEYERS
Bethel Park


The biggest eyesore

Regarding Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's edict to clean up the city before the G-20 summit:

While the mayor is insisting on cleaning up the city for the summit and "wrapping" vacant and abandoned buildings, both in town and on Mount Washington, how does he intend to clean up and make attractive that boondoggle more commonly known as the hole to nowhere (the subway construction to the North Shore), which is also on the radar when you exit the Fort Pitt Tunnel?

The Hilton scaffolding is nothing compared to that mess.

FRANCES SALYNSKI
South Park


Road rules

From what I understand, anyone riding a bicycle in the streets is to follow the rules of the road -- stop at red lights, no turn on red, yield, etc.

I see these guys/ladies running red lights, not even stopping, breaking the law. It's like they do whatever they want, and when they get hit it's automatically the vehicle driver's fault.

I don't understand how you're supposed to share the road with a person on a bike going 5 mph in a 35 mph zone. It's idiotic, and you should not be able to ride a bicycle on the street if you can't follow the law and abide by the same laws as we do in a car.

It's a danger to other drivers and the bicyclist himself if he or she can't keep up with traffic.

J. HENTOSZ
Baldwin Borough


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We welcome your letters. Please include your name, address and phone number, and send to Letters to the Editor, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222. E-mail letters to letters@post-gazette.com or fax to 412-263-2014. Letters should be 250 words or less, original and exclusive to the Post-Gazette. All letters are subject to editing for length, clarity and accuracy and will be verified before being published.



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