Medicare not enforcing its rules
The federal government has identified Florida as a magnet for Medicare fraud and abuse. But because Medicare is not enforcing its own regulations, Floridians requiring the use of orthotic and prosthetic services (artificial limbs and orthopedic braces) are at risk of receiving substandard care. And professionals who have completed the necessary education and training to become Medicare-qualified and state licensed are losing millions of dollars of business to unqualified and unlicensed suppliers.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that administers the Medicare program, issued Change Request 3959 in August 2005, requiring Medicare to deny payment of prosthetics and orthotics if the services are provided by a supplier that does not meet the state licensing statute. Florida has a state licensing law for prosthetists and orthotists that is designed to ensure that these services are provided by qualified professionals with a state license to treat patients.
Local newspapers are full of stories of fraud and abuse in the Medicare program, with a particular emphasis on Miami-Dade County. And yet, CMS has failed to implement its own rules to stop this fraud. In September 2005, a Government Accountability Office report estimated that a full 10 percent, or $900 million, of Medicare claims paid during 2004 for durable medical equipment and orthotic and prosthetic items and services was "inappropriate."
CMS admits that the current rules on orthotic and prosthetic billing are not being enforced by Medicare. CR 3959 is supposed to be in effect today for prosthetic and orthotic services and devices. With the huge problem that Medicare fraud represents in Florida and throughout the country, why is it not being enforced?
The state of Florida needs to use its power to validate the licensure status of individual Medicare suppliers who provide orthotic and prosthetic care to patients and investigate those who fail to comply. The state should also pressure CMS to finally implement its own commonsense rules that would have prevented inappropriate payment of millions in past taxpayer dollars.
Michael R. Rieth, certified and licensed prosthetist/orthotist, St. Petersburg
Obama pleads for immigration reform May 20
Mexican leader shouldn't lecture U.S. on its laws
Mexican President Felipe Calderon sure has nerve to make the statements he has made to the press and in your article.
He warns that Mexico will reject any effort by the United States to "criminalize migration" and calls Arizona's law discriminatory. How can he say this with a straight face as he is fully aware of the strict immigration laws of his own country, which deports more people for illegal entry than the United States does?
What does Calderon have to say about his own citizens who break the laws of our country? If we Americans broke his immigration laws, wouldn't we be thrown in prison?
Perhaps Calderon is really more interested in the money Mexican citizens make illegally in the United States and send back to their families.
And as for Obama, what does he mean by saying it is not about borders, but about relationships between the countries? If he really believes that, he is full of frijoles.
B. Howerton, Largo
State will drop Sansom perjury count May 20
Keep an eye on Sansom
It's happening again. Charges against Ray Sansom are being ever so slowly pared away; and at the same time, reporting on his disgraceful activities has slipped from page 1A to the inside back page of the B section.
I predict that eventually the rest of the charges against him will slide away into the political cesspool. Perhaps we may find that story tucked away in an obscure paragraph — in the classified section?
Julia Larson, St. Petersburg
Competence, calm at the helm May 17, editorial
A sad situation
It is a sad situation that a headline such as this is necessary when referring to the Hillsborough County government. These qualities should be the norm, not the exception.
What really gets me angry is when I read that these administrators are on "paid leave of absence" for ridiculous amounts of time. How long should it take to establish that Pat Bean was serving her needs above her constituents?
To make it worse, once this finding is confirmed and she is subsequently fired, she not only has gained three months' paid vacation on my dime, but she will then be entitled to $226,000, one year's pay, for not doing her job. No wonder Hillsborough County's budget is filled with red ink.
Diana Rao, Tampa
Competence, calm at the helm May 17, editorial
We need new blood
This editorial was right on target. However, you needed to go a step further. If we really want to correct what is wrong with our County Commission, we need to get rid of all our commissioners and start over. I was born in Tampa and have never seen such a dysfunctional group of people. Of course, it's our own fault. We keep electing the same bunch over and over.
We need new blood, people who are more concerned with our city and county and not their own political future. If they take care of our people, the people will take care of them.
Oscar Hernandez, Tampa
New secession looming
The answer to many of our nation's problems may be a new secession.
Not like the bloody old Civil War which was fought to preserve an indecent, obscene economy, but a new struggle to preserve our individual liberties and the right of states to govern according to the will of their constituents.
The recent Arizona law on immigration is an example of the future. The federal government's unwillingness or inability to act on an issue forces the states to act on their own. The Arizona law is an example of secession by default: legal, peaceful, popular and a reaction to necessity.
During a recent visit to the Florida House of Representatives, I was privileged to witness our lawmakers at work. One representative was on his feet debating the good points of a bill when another lawmaker stated that a similar bill had been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the state of Florida," the first said. "Not the Supreme Court."
Are we headed for a new secession? The trend seems to point in that direction.
Richard J. Paracka, New Port Richey
What would be cut?
There is always a group of people who want smaller government and less government spending. They make a lot of angry noise about it. But they never say if they get into power what departments of the government are they going to do away with or what programs they are going to cut.
Since the most expensive government programs are entitlements and the military, are they going to do away with Social Security and the military? I, for one, cannot vote for someone on the basis of a vague ideal like smaller government and less spending.
Alice de Schweinitz, Spring Hill
An unkind cut
The treatment given to the employees of Sam Seltzer's Steakhouses is despicable. Right up until the day before their closing, managers had employees walking through the dining rooms soliciting diners to join a club whereby one accumulated points toward a gift card.
Now that they have my and others' personal information, I suppose they will sell that to some marketing company eager to receive that information. If they ever decide to try again in this area, I can guarantee they won't see me as a customer.
Salvatore Cascio, Largo