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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 13, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Children’s health care

Arbitrary tax breaks

On Jan. 10, The Times presented two sides of the same coin about the budget shortfall [“Goal to insure all kids could fall to budget ax,” Times, page one].

The story tells that low-income children’s health-care programs are facing severe cuts. The report paraphrases Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, saying about children, “They’re cheaper to insure, and keeping them healthy now pays financial dividends later.”

On the editorial page, The Times takes another view. “In session: legislation by a thousand cuts” and “A state out of money and also out of time” [editorials, Jan. 11] both claim that because the state has an immediate and serious budget shortfall, the editorial board advocates no expansion of health-care coverage for children, but no increase in taxes and no elimination of tax breaks.

The Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, public-policy institute has studied the state tax structure. Their briefs on tax breaks show that Washington state had 567 tax exemptions on the books as of 2007. A 2008 analysis by the Washington Department of Revenue shows 302 of these exemptions saved business and individuals roughly $15 billion (yes, billion) in state and local taxes in the 2007-09 biennium.

So, there must be sacrifices in children’s health care and teachers’ pay, but no sacrifices by business?

— Mary Ann Leskie, Tacoma

Insure children, ensure us all

Reneging on the promise to provide health insurance to all kids will have serious unintended consequences we will all pay for. Let’s follow what’s likely to happen to Sarah McIntyre as a good example [“Goal to insure all kids falls to budget ax,” page one, Jan. 11].

As a child with asthma and a prior history of heart disease, if she does not receive her medications on schedule and skips doctor visits, it is only a matter of time before she will be rushed to the emergency room in severe respiratory distress. The medical bills from that ER visit and the resulting days of hospitalization will be costly. Her parents will be faced with possible bankruptcy if they try to pay the bills, or the hospital will have to write off its costs as charitable care (which raises the cost of care for all insured patients).

One way or another, we taxpayers will end up paying more for kids like Sarah. She’ll pay the cost in unnecessary suffering, her parents will pay by losing whatever they have managed to save, and taxpayers will pay for more expensive emergency care than would have been necessary if Sarah received better medical insurance.

Wouldn’t it be better, not just for Sarah and her parents, but for all of us, to pay the lower per-child cost of covering regular medical care and prescription medications for all children?

— Sarah Weinberg, M.D., Mercer Island

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