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Small steps taken on health care, coverage

Remember when "universal health insurance" was synonymous with "socialized medicine?"

It still is in some quarters, but most of the United States are not among them. More than half are considering or have passed expanded coverage for the uninsured. Others are seeking to cover all their children. (New Jersey and Pennsylvania are doing both.)

Blue-chip companies are pushing Washington for a solution to the problem of unaffordable health care, and the Democratic candidates for president are sparring over whether their various plans would cover just most or nearly all Americans.

Back in January, Gov. Rendell, never one to miss out on the persuasive power of trend, proposed a sweeping overhaul of health care in the state, from nutrition to insurance to prevention of medical errors. His "Prescription for Pennsylvania" is moving forward bit by bit.

Other signs of change:

It's now legal to breast-feed your baby in public. Actually, it's been legal for some time in many places, but not Pennsylvania. Eleven years after the first breast-feeding protection legislation was introduced in Harrisburg, and two months after 100 or so women with children rallied at the Capitol, the bill finally passed the House - as it turned out, unanimously - and was signed by the governor.

Smoking bans in bars, restaurants and workplaces cover locales where more than half of Americans live - including taverns and restaurants in Philadelphia and casinos in Atlantic City. The smoke dissipates even as the grumbling continues. And if there's any doubt that the times they are a-changing, note that this was the year Philadelphia banned trans fats.

- Don Sapatkin