Threat to quality care is shelved
The nursing homes in Florida that provide quality care for seniors are breathing a sigh of relief.
Earlier this year, the Agency for Health Care Administration submitted a plan to the governor and Legislature for a new approach to nursing home Medicaid payments, purportedly to establish a payment system that includes incentives for high-quality care and simplifies the payment process. But in fact, the AHCA proposal would shift $109 million from high-quality nursing homes to lower-quality homes, with no requirement that the lower-quality homes spend their new money on staff, programs or services to improve their care.
Because the proposal would have meant hundreds of thousands, and in some cases, millions of dollars in losses to high-quality nursing homes, access to Medicaid services for vulnerable seniors would be limited and quality providers would be threatened.
Last month, state Rep. Jason Brodeur, chairman of the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, determined that "the calculations that were done in the AHCA study don't meet all the needs." Ranking committee Democrat David Richardson agreed and said the proposal "needs more work."
The ill-conceived plan is shelved — for now. A Medicaid reimbursement plan that rewards poor performers and penalizes the best deserves to be shelved. The ultimate losers would be our frail elderly. Surely we can do better for the most vulnerable members of our society.
Robert Goldstein, St. Petersburg
The writer is chief executive officer of Menorah Manor, a nonprofit nursing home facility in St. Petersburg.
Compare and contrast | Feb. 24, letter
Presidents always on duty
The letter stresses that President Donald Trump's weekly trips to Florida were "working days" while President Barack Obama's trips were golfing vacations. All presidents' time away from the Oval Office are "working days." They are on duty 24/7.
President Franklin Roosevelt vacationed in Georgia; President Lyndon Johnson at his Texas ranch; President Ronald Reagan at his ranch in California; and President George W. Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. All were legitimate vacations; their office traveled with them. They continued to receive their daily briefings and didn't miss a beat.
Frank Medrano, Plant City
About that budget: What gives? and Refocus school funds on priorities | Feb. 20, 22
School is oasis of learning
Both of these articles use Lockhart Elementary Magnet as an exemplar of the county's expensive and "struggling" magnet schools. The authors suggest eliminating magnet schools that aren't "delivering desired results," i.e., racial diversity and a D or higher school grade.
School grades and diversity matter, but they're not all that matters. Located in a historically segregated and economically disadvantaged part of Tampa, Lockhart Magnet is the great-grandchild of College Hill Elementary, an African-American School opened in 1952, and a neighbor to Robles Park and Belmont Heights Estates. Crime has been a bigger issue in East Tampa than other parts of our city. Yet the parents of students from 59 different school zones choose to send their kids there.
Anyone well acquainted with Lockhart understands why. Lockhart's campus is an oasis of creative and scientific learning. Lockhart's teachers are enthusiastic and devoted. Lockhart's administrators perform incredibly difficult jobs with near-permanent positive attitudes. Lockhart's principal is a newly sworn American citizen who began her career at Lockhart and returned to foster the school's success. She has welcomed community partners into her school with positive results.
Lockhart's students come from a variety of circumstances. Some face very significant challenges at home. Yet, in large part, they are thriving because people at Lockhart believe in their potential. They're thriving because of STEM education and the magnet program.
Giving up on Lockhart and schools like it is not the solution to the district's budget crisis. Measuring successful educational outcomes isn't a one-size-fits-all analysis, and the challenges at Lockhart are not emblematic of a magnet program failure.
Lindsay Saxe Griffin and Jennifer Waugh Corinis, Tampa
The writers are founders of the Lunch & Learn Mentoring Program.
Ethics in government
Hold leaders to account
Ethics are usually reflected in personal and professional decisions, just as past behavior is typically a reliable predictor of future performance. Ethics is a gut-level value system that is reflected in our character.
There is constant and continual frustration today with the disregard for ethical practices in the public and private sectors. We witness through our media alleged violations and an attitude and practice by the ethically challenged that violates the spirit of democracy and often decency.
We have not developed an effective strategy to combat this egregious assault on our democratic values, which continues infiltrating our country's public and private organizations like cancer. We need teeth in our penalties to make ethically challenged individuals take notice and behave responsibly. As citizens we deserve no less from the people who represent us and make and enforce our laws.
Our public sector officials need to be held to the highest standards of behavior and practice. They are the role models for future generations, and our nation is a beacon on which the world depends as a benchmark. We need to ask ourselves if this is what we want history to reflect that we as a people tolerated from our public officials; and by our silence approved as our value system.
When individuals are willing to sacrifice integrity because they are afraid of or desire to manipulate the results, it is time to tell them: "If you cross the line you will be held accountable." Let's crystallize the rules for what is expected, then follow up and follow through, holding offenders accountable through effective penalties.
Judith Anne Cannon, Pinecrest