As a regular blood donor for more than 30 years, and having known Brian Hodges for several years, I read with interest your July 13 story regarding policies that restrict blood donations from gays (“Gay man’s Portland blood donation fails again”). I could not help but be reminded of past policies restricting transfusions among races.

I hope the powers that be will soon revise these outdated policies to be consistent with the current level of their own actual blood screening tests, regardless of a donor’s self-declaration of activities as diverse as sexual partners, overseas travel, imprisonment, tattoos or intravenous drug use.

At a time when blood demand is so great, it does not make sense to continue to limit supply when efficient and accurate screening is already in use.

The next time I make my regular donation, I will do so hoping it might make a difference and be an actual gift of life to someone in need. And for the record, if I ever need a pint, I would be thankful to receive one from Mr. Hodges.

Jim McGowan
Georgetown 

On ‘birthday’ of Medicare, let’s appreciate all it’s done

This month, Medicare turns 48. Since Medicare was signed into law July 30, 1965, by President Johnson, the program has helped millions of people 65 and older as well as many younger Americans with disabilities get the health care coverage they need. 

Prior to the creation of Medicare, only half of the older adults in the United States had health insurance because coverage was often unavailable or unaffordable. 

While you may understand the benefits of Medicare, did you know that it took almost two decades for Medicare to be signed into law?

President Truman tried on three occasions to implement a national health insurance program without success. 

In 1961, a task force convened by President Kennedy recommended the creation of a national health insurance program specifically for those over 65. President Kennedy gave a televised speech about the need for Medicare in May 1962. 

President Johnson continued the call in 1964, urging Congress to create Medicare. Finally, in 1965, Congress passed legislation creating the Medicare program. 

When Medicare coverage began, more than 19 million Americans 65 and older enrolled in the program. Today, nearly 50 million Americans depend on Medicare for their health insurance coverage. With increasing life expectancies and more people turning 65 every day, the number of people in Medicare is expected to double between the years 2000 and 2030. 

Because this program is vital to so many, it’s important we take the time to appreciate Medicare’s journey. Equally important, we need to make sure that we do all we can to ensure the program remains strong for current and future generations. You can share your opinions at earnedasay.org.

Marion Pawlek
AARP Maine Executive Council
Kittery Point

Farm bill leaves out needy, favors corporate interests

The farm bill sets U.S. agricultural, food and resource conservation policy for the next five years.

Earlier this month the U.S. House of Representatives, on a party-line vote, broke with tradition by stripping from the farm bill the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps).

What’s left in the bill is billions of dollars of subsidies mostly for farming conglomerates. The U.S. Senate passed a much more balanced bill last month.

Over the past 18 years, our government has doled out an average of $7 billion per year of taxpayer funds to support the livestock and dairy industries. Instead, their products should be taxed to reimburse state and federal governments for the uncounted billions in increased medical costs and lost productivity associated with their consumption.

Conversely, a sound national nutrition program based on vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruits and nuts can save additional billions in reduced social costs.

I am all in favor of reducing our national deficit, government waste and medical costs. But that’s not going to happen by taking nutritious food from the mouths of 47 million of our society’s least privileged members.

Patrick Wayne
Portland

Bipartisan bill eases fears of losing nursing home beds

As a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, I work on a broad spectrum of legislation, everything from bills dealing with adoption services to tobacco specialty stores.

With our aging citizenry (Maine’s population has the oldest median age in the country, at 43.5), we also deal with many bills involving elder services and nursing home care.

It may be of interest to the general public to know that Gov. LePage recently signed into law a bill sponsored by Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, to adjust the number of nursing home bed “holds.”

L.D. 1364, a bill that I was proud to co-sponsor, increases the number of days that a nursing home can hold a bed while an individual is temporarily at the hospital.

According to Rick Erb, president and CEO of the Maine Health Care Association, the average length of a hospital stay is less than six days. The new law allows for seven hospital days per stay and up to 20 therapeutic days per year. Under the old law, an absence of four days could have resulted in a forfeiture of a nursing home bed.

Therapeutic days are held at a lower daily rate, thus saving the state money, while also allowing nursing home residents the freedom to periodically visit their loved ones (for a weekend, for example) without the worry of losing their bed.

Understandably, many nursing home residents worry about losing their beds for situations beyond their control, such as a medical condition. While recognizing that we need to prioritize limited state resources, this bill is not as generous as some would prefer.

That being said, I am pleased with the compromise that we were able to accomplish with the passage of this bipartisan legislation.

Rep. Heather Sirocki
R-Scarborough