Budget "shell game" imperils aid to sick | April 7, story
Don't divert funds from Medicaid
This news story accurately reflects the concern our profession expressed at the outset of the economic stimulus debate in Washington. As we feared, once the federal resources in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act reached the states, there was no specific guarantee the sizable Medicaid component of the package would be used for the intended purpose of protecting vulnerable populations during this severe recession.
We are disappointed that it appears state lawmakers will deny Florida seniors access to the federal funds they so badly need to retain access to quality health care and services, and we concur with those who have characterized this funding diversion as a "shell game."
In addition to the fact the new federal Medicaid dollars are needed by long-term care facilities throughout the state to help protect the key, direct-care staff jobs that make an enormous difference in patient outcomes, the care needs of Florida seniors are undermined by the fact there already exists a $12.19 per patient-day negative differential between what the Florida Medicaid program funds for seniors' growing Medicaid needs versus the actual costs to provide this care.
This new funding diversion represents yet another funding hit to Florida seniors and those who care for them. The Medicaid funding gap is headed in the wrong direction in Florida as it is in many other states. During these challenging economic times, we are certainly cognizant of state lawmakers' urgent need to plug gaping holes in their state budgets caused by economic conditions beyond their control. Nevertheless, we respectfully urge Gov. Charlie Crist and the state Legislature to help ensure the good news from Washington in regard to new federal Medicaid funds is translated into good, fair, commonsense elder care policy as these resources have now arrived in Tallahassee.
Emmett Reed, executive director, Florida Health Care Association, Tallahassee; and Bruce Yarwood, president, CEO, American Health Care Association, Washington
Water official a heavy user | April 9, story
Water official sets a bad example
I was stunned when reading the response of Swiftmud's Governing Board member Jennifer Closshey to her water use that is six times that of the average homeowner. She supports a water surcharge for overuse, but will put in a well instead of paying for it.
Interesting: When I called the Swiftmud office some time ago I was informed that all water use came under the restrictions on those living within the Swiftmud's jurisdiction, whether coming from a well or city water source.
The rest of us are told to use water sparingly, water once a week or not at all, not to wash cars at home, and all car washes must use recirculated water. Florida-friendly plants and ground covers are recommended for use to enable people to have attractive "Florida" yards and yet not waste water. It has been suggested we take short showers, not run water while brushing our teeth or washing our hands, etc., in order to save this precious resource. These are all things many of us have done for years.
So it becomes evident that Closshey either is unaware of how the regulations are written or feels they do not apply to those like her who "have a big yard" for which "there is only so much you can do." Even if the rules did not apply to her and her property, common decency would require that she follow the rules that she sets for the rest of us.
Mary Ann Hilton, Dunnellon
Water official a heavy user | April 9, story
The overuse of water by Swiftmud's Governing Board member Jennifer Closshey is outrageous, and she should take immediate action to substantially reduce water usage by redesigning her landscape. Her statement, "But when you have a big yard in an area, there's only so much you can do" indicates that she needs to be educated regarding landscape options for Florida homeowners. The size of her property has nothing to do with her water needs if she learns to design and maintain her lawn and landscape in a Florida-friendly way. I encourage her and all Floridians to contact their local extension office to learn more about all the "innovative" options available to her.
Information on Hillsborough County Extension's class on Florida-Friendly 101 can be found on the Web at: http://hillsborough.extension.ufl.edu/HomeGardening/PDFs/FFL101_2009_Flier.pdf.
I strongly encourage Closshey to be a true leader in her community and take swift action to remediate the environmental disaster she created at her home.
Terry A. Berube, Largo
Hillsborough transit planning
A boost for rail
I applaud the Hillsborough County commissioners for taking their first step toward a mass-transit sales tax referendum on the November 2010 ballot. Tampa Bay is a thriving metropolis that needs light rail and improved transit infrastructure to continue to attract industry and broaden the regional economy. A sales tax increase is the only viable local funding option available in Hillsborough County.
Florida needs economic expansion, which is not possible without statewide transit infrastructure. Southeast Florida's transit plan is built around the Tri-Rail commuter rail service, and Sunrail commuter rail is under consideration in Tallahassee for Central Florida. The Tampa Bay regional transit plan calls for both light rail and commuter rail service. Local funding for the Tampa Bay regional transit network is critical if the project is to move forward, enabling us to break the "drive everywhere" model of suburban living.
Timing for increasing taxes is certainly challenging as we are all feeling the effects of the depressed economy. This is where leadership needs to come into play. The quality of life improvements that begin with a modern regional transit network are well worth the costs.
Bruce Hurwitz, Lutz
No fare: just tips will do | April 5, story about neighborhood electrical vehicles
Danger on the roads
As a cab driver, yes, I am upset about losing business. But the city of Tampa is allowing the neighborhood electrical vehicles to operate in areas where huge volumes of alcohol get consumed. There is no protection from a large vehicle hitting and killing six passengers packed into one of these vehicles.
The NEVs do not follow state Department of Transportation laws. They are not supposed to travel on any major highway or road over 30 mph. They feel the law does not apply to them. Who is going to get the blame for a horrible accident: the hotel or restaurant that requested the NEV or the city that allows it to operate? Someone will have to pay. I also understand they have a hard time with insurance.
Charles Smalling, Tampa