Thursday, May 16, 2013: The American melting pot, health care and patients’ rights

Posted May 15, 2013, at 2:46 p.m.

Consider supporting center

The Fort Fairfield Quality of Place Council is concerned that Aroostook County residents could lose a terrific educational facility. For more than 30 years, the Francis Malcolm Science Center in Easton has taught countless children and adults about the Earth, the stars and the universe around us.

The unique planetarium conducts a wealth of kid-friendly activities that are fun and educational for people of all ages. However, the science center is privately funded and generates most of its revenue from donations and from income in an endowment left by Easton resident Francis Malcolm.

The domed theater that seats 35 people is a magnet for area children and adults who want to learn more about the solar system. More than 100,000 of our school children have learned about insects, bones, animal species, and our own nervous and respiratory systems by participating in programs at the center.

The center is holding an open house on May 18 from noon to 3 p.m. to give the public an opportunity to see how the center operates. There will be planetarium demonstrations, hands-on exhibits and much more.

Our Fort Fairfield Quality of Place Council strives to support educational facilities for a better quality of life for all of our citizens and neighbors. We hope readers will participate in the spring open house.

It is also our hope that those that can contribute will help with donations. We are so fortunate to have the Francis Malcolm Science Center in our area.

Brent Churchill, Phil Christensen, Fort Fairfield Quality of Place Council, board of directors

Fort Fairfield

Fitting in

Of all the terrible sounds and images from the horrific Boston Marathon bombings, the words that continue to haunt me are these:

“I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them,” attributed to suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev in an interview about the 26-year-old’s boxing aspirations.

Repeatedly, we have heard from friends and neighbors that both Tsarnaev brothers seemed to be “fitting in” so well and behaving like Americans until that fateful afternoon when their murderous actions made a mockery of “fitting in.”

As the rector of an episcopal church sponsoring the Downeast Spiritual Life Conference focused on embracing diversity and creating community, I think a lot about the “them” and about pluralism and assimilation. These are two ways in which our society has approached our widening cultural and ethnic diversity.

It seems to me that the American melting pot concept of assimilation expects newcomers to shed their differences and identities in order to become more like us and “fit in” with our predominantly Anglo-Protestant culture. Clearly, we are the “them” in Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s quote.

Pluralism, however, expects immigrants to come just as they are, identities intact, and contribute in distinctive ways to our multi-ethnic civilization. It is the very principle on which America was founded, and a way to end prejudice by dispelling fear of what is unknown or strange to us.

And that is why this year’s Aug. 23-24 conference in Bar Harbor will engage leaders from three different religions in conversation about creating pluralistic communities of faith. For more information about this event readers can visit, www.downeastspiritual.org.

Rev. Claudia Wyatt Smith, Rector, St. Francis by the Sea Episcopal Church

Blue Hill

Current/future debt

The politics of repaying hospital debt and expanding MaineCare is frustrating. Unless the two are tied together, we’ve only solved half the debt problem.

When those living below the poverty line get sick or injured, they still need care. Maine’s hospitals provide that care, whether or not patients can pay their bills. But in so doing so, they incur debt.

That’s why the proposal to link hospital debt repayment to the expansion of MaineCare makes sense. There’s no dispute that the final installment on the debt created by an outmoded MaineCare payment system must be paid.

But unless Maine accepts the federal funds to cover low-income people, their care will continue to go unpaid. That creates a new debt to Maine’s hospitals.

Some say we don’t need to accept federal funds because people in poverty can buy insurance through new health insurance exchanges. But only those with incomes within a certain range qualify for health insurance discounts. People with incomes under the bottom tier are ineligible for discounts. Some call this a “drafting error.”

In fact, the Affordable Care Act assumed everybody below poverty would qualify for Medicaid. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it’s up to states to decide whether or not to accept federal funds to cover them. As a result, unless a state does so, the poorest of the poor remain uninsured and their care creates debt to Maine hospitals.

Linking federal payments for the uninsured with the hospital debt repayment, ends the current debt and prevents a future one.

Trish Riley

Brunswick

Hidden patients’ rights

The May 15 BDN article, “Reports: Maine ranks first in hospital safety, medical errors on decline but some still serious,” about U.S. hospital safety was excellent. The piece points to more access to information to aid medical decisions.

There is one subject not mentioned here: The patient, while in hospital, makes a request to see or get a copy of a medical testing report, which is then denied by the hospital staff. I believe this dark room maneuver is intended to prevent the patient from suing a doctor who may have made an erroneous diagnosis.

I remember an event several years ago that involved someone who had been in an auto accident that broke the driver’s neck, resulting in serious condition. The accident occurred after the driver had lost consciousness due to a misdiagnosed problem that shut down that person’s stomach, trapping a large amount of drugs. The subsequent treatment at the hospital saved the patient’s life, but the patient was not allowed to follow up on what caused the problem.

Health problems, like this example, will not be found in polls or surveys used for grading the quality of hospital care. Hidden from view are the patients’ rights.

Peter Carminati

Stonington

Anybody doing their job?

What is going on in Augusta? Why all the partisan bickering?

All of the people who were elected to represent us in Augusta should do what they were sent there to do. Instead of saying they are not doing what I want, I am taking my ball and bat and going home.

John Bennett

Enfield

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/05/15/opinion/letters/thursday-may-16-2013-the-american-melting-pot-health-care-and-patients-rights/ printed on December 27, 2014