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Top quality for all

7/29/2008, 10:31 a.m.

Top quality for all

“Why not? The indigent aren’t accustomed to the health care we know.”

The United States has developed the best industrialized economy in the world. It stands to reason, therefore, that citizens should extol the captains of industry and those who have been able to accumulate a fortune. The converse, however, is the unfortunate tendency to denigrate those with no wealth.

Many Americans have not yet decided what level of health care they owe to their fellow citizens. In his op-ed piece in the Boston Globe (“Doing the math on healthcare,” July 22, 2008), Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute suggests that Boston Medical Center and Cambridge Health Alliance, the area’s safety net hospitals, should be financially penalized because health care for the indigent is more expensive.

The standard at BMC is “exceptional care without exception.” This recognizes the Judeo-Christian tenet that all human life is equally sacred. The same medical care available to a leading CEO should also be available to those on welfare. Not surprisingly, the cost of providing quality medical care to the indigent can often be more expensive, due in part to years of neglect: The lack of health insurance has induced many of those with modest incomes to fail for decades to seek medical attention.

Over the years, BMC has developed a special rapport with the community because of the respectful treatment of all patients, the availability of interpreters in 60 languages for the 30 percent who do not speak English, a food pantry to prescribe food for patients who are undernourished, and special programs for conditions common in the BMC catchment area. This level of care is expensive, but necessary.

Stergios proposes a one-size-fits-all approach that might be suitable for suburbanites, but is not very helpful for those in the inner city. Community leaders must challenge this ill-advised thinking.

Words matter

A prudent person would find it unwise to insult or slander an individual or institution because of a disagreement. The potential consequences can be too severe.

A good example of this is the insulting attack on Minister Louis Farrakhan in February 1984. When Jesse Jackson announced his candidacy for president on Nov. 3, 1983, a fusillade of death threats was immediately leveled at him and his family. Many of the assailants identified themselves as Jewish militants.

In order to protect the Jackson family, Farrakhan assigned members of the Nation of Islam to provide security. The following February, on Founder’s Day, Farrakhan made an earnest appeal to the nation’s Jewish leaders to meet to resolve the conflict. At all times, Farrakhan’s comments were respectful.

The next day, the national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, Nathan Perlmutter, called Farrakhan a “black Hitler.” The insult was widely published by the national media. African Americans who respect Farrakhan were highly offended by the remark. This insult substantially contributed to a cooling of relations between blacks and Jews that continued for many years.

Apparently, the management of TOUCH 106.1 FM has not learned the lesson that words matter. After a recent dispute with Boston University over rental of the Agganis Arena, the radio station inferred on its Web site that BU was racist. To prove the point, they broadcast a telephone conversation with the arena’s manager who was unaware that he was on the air. That tactic only proved that TOUCH 106.1 FM lacks basic media courtesy; nothing the manager said sounded at all racially biased.

TOUCH 106.1 FM’s management chooses to ignore the fact that as an unlicensed radio station, it is in violation of Federal Communications Commission law. This is not an act of great moral turpitude, but it could create a problem for others.

The Banner does not oppose accurately labeling bona fide bigots as racists. But when you play the race card, you have to be certain that it’s a trump.