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The IRS breastfeeding decision makes sense
To breastfeed, or not to breastfeed -- that is the question for all new moms. The answer should be straightforward but is often complicated by the sort of manufactured controversies the PG reported in "Breastfeeding Tax Deductions Stirring Debate" (Feb. 21).
The article concluded with a local mother proclaiming that classifying breastfeeding equipment as a medical expense is a slippery slope, then asking where we can draw the line.
In medicine, we draw the line based on scientific evidence.
Breast milk produces significant health benefits for both mother and baby. Moms see reductions in breast, uterine and ovarian cancers, plus a more rapid return to pre-pregnancy weight and health. Infants see reductions in ear infections, gastrointestinal disease and allergies, plus cancers and obesity later in life.
The Internal Revenue Service decision to classify breastfeeding supplies as medical equipment was based on dollars and sense: the sense to support the health of babies and their mothers, and the dollars -- one estimate puts the value at $13 billion annually -- the United States could save if breastfeeding rates approached those recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
At my practice, Kids Plus Pediatrics, where we support breastfeeding regionally and nationally with our Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh, we applaud the new IRS decision. We don't see any slipperiness on any slope. And we proudly defy the cliche that anyone who supports breastfeeding (and the tax deductions that come along with it) must necessarily be a scold or a zealot or a "breastfeeding Nazi."
Our belief, and our recommendation, is simple: present the medical evidence, then support a mom any way she chooses -- whether that's breastfeeding, formula feeding or anywhere between.
TODD WOLYNN, M.D.
Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh
The writer is president of Kids Plus Pediatrics.
I have been following the debate over allowing breast pumps and related supplies to qualify as a tax-deductible medical expense for the past year. As a nursing mother, I applaud the government's decision to approve these items as qualified medical expenses ("Breastfeeding Tax Deductions Stirring Debate," Feb. 21).
The opposition to this approval believes that by the government granting this status, thus allowing breast pumps and supplies to be more affordable (a quality pump necessary for a working mother is on average $300), they are playing partisan politics and intruding into a personal decision. I have yet to hear as part of the debate, the acknowledgement that the formula companies seem to have a monopoly on promoting how we as a society should be feeding our babies.
As a new mom, I am keenly aware of the countless TV commercials and magazine advertisements promoting formula. To top it off, I receive coupons every week that provide a deep discount on the cost of formula. Finally the government is assisting me, a proud nursing mom, with a way to save a little money on the method I use to nourish my baby.
Not a political issue
Regarding the IRS giving tax breaks for breast pumps and other aids to breastfeeding mothers: For a lot of women these are essential for the feeding and the well-being of their babies -- especially a working mother who needs to pump and store milk so she can provide her baby with good nutrition when she is working. These things can be expensive and for some women they can be a drain on the budget. So is buying formula. Breastfeeding makes good sense. Breast milk is the best way to give a baby the proper start in life.
I have an answer for Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann: This is not a political issue. God gave women breasts to feed their babies. There is the added benefit from breastfeeding that you don't get from formula, such as fewer illnesses and a better chance of not being overweight. This is not a political issue. Michelle Obama didn't think this up as a left-wing subversive plot against America.
As for Ms. Bachmann and Ms. Palin, grow up, "will ya"! Ms. Palin should know better. She has five kids of her own and can afford all the breast pumps she wants. Let women who are not as lucky have the same options to give their newborns the same chance to grow up as healthy as her children have.
Films bring jobs
Regarding the importance of the Pennsylvania film tax credit and how it has lured moviemakers to both the state and the Pittsburgh region: As a former production accountant who has worked on many successful productions in our city, I cannot count the number of producers I have heard say they shot their films here specifically because of the incentive.
The Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board's recently released study analyzing the film industry's work force in Pennsylvania clearly shows that the number of projects awarded the state under the tax credit program rose from nine in fiscal year 2006-07 to 69 in FY 2008-09 after the cap on the incentive had been raised.
The board's study shows the strength of the motion picture and television industry in Pennsylvania and its ability to create high-paying jobs, even in difficult times. The data reinforce the need to retain the film production tax credit, which has given our state a distinct competitive advantage. In 2008 alone, the motion picture and television industry employed more than 15,000 workers with wages that average $85,500 in Philadelphia and $67,200 in Pittsburgh.
At a time when jobs are being lost, we cannot afford to let go of this tax credit and damage a growing industry cluster. Without the film industry tax credit, Pennsylvania will lose high-paying jobs and the opportunity to bring high-profile projects to Pennsylvania.
A fiscal no-brainer
It's a business no-brainer to encourage the proud politicians to green light the Pennsylvania film tax credit for fiscal 2011.
Perhaps the Pittsburgh Film Office, as a bargaining chip, can offer to train/hire two or three dozen war veterans for various production positions for the incoming slate of feature films.
We're sure the Pittsburgh Film Office can initiate programs such as this to further encourage the political powers in Harrisburg to pass the film tax credit.
The Steelers didn't make it to the Super Bowl because of their complacency.
It's the fourth quarter and the two-minute warning has been sounded. Tick. Tick. Tick.
MICHAEL D. (MICKEY) LIES
The writer is a movie producer and a writer.
ER staff shouldn't expect gratitude from those who are suffering
As an emergency physician for 24 years, I was ashamed of the approach used and felt sad for Dr. Tom Doyle after reading the second part of his "Life in the ER" series, "Alive But Ungrateful: We Saved Her Life, But Now It's Her Turn" (Feb. 28). It is easy to see the tragedy of the young woman he encountered. Prompt care averted death -- congratulations. It is just as easy to know that the real struggle is upon the shoulders of that same troubled woman.
What was disheartening was the callous, "me-centered" approach to the care; while I am sure many will say "She needed it/deserved it," I wonder whose needs were being served. Of course people in the minutes after a near-death experience act in ways most of us consider abnormal. Like Dr. Doyle, I prefer thanks for my work, but recognize that right after tumult, it may not come -- no big deal. Did a condescending lecture really achieve a useful goal? I am unconvinced the words of Dr. Doyle altered the rehab choice the patient made, but it made Dr. Doyle feel better.
Emergency physicians and nurses do great things under tough conditions, and they are allowed to have personal feelings. Venting them onto those who are suffering -- even when suffering from their own choices (maybe multiplied by other events) can create a false camaraderie and distance that ultimately impairs our mission: Helping folks get better and avoid future illness.
I hope that praises do not follow this piece. Those seeking emergency care -- no matter how they got to the Emergency Department and how grateful they are right away -- deserve better from us.
DONALD M. YEALY, M.D.
Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Pittsburgh/University of Pittsburgh Physicians</<!--End address-->
The writer is professor of emergency medicine, medicine, and clinical and translational sciences, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
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First Published March 7, 2011 12:00 am