Court strikes health mandate | Aug. 13
Ruling makes insured the losers
Last week's ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the Affordable Care Act was a mixed bag, with the American people ending up the losers. The appeals court disagreed with a lower court ruling that declared the entire act unconstitutional. The only portion of the act the appeals court ruled unconstitutional was the individual mandate to purchase health insurance.
The case seems certain to proceed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the appeals court decision to throw out the individual mandate requirement would leave Americans with health insurance footing the bill for the nation's uninsured. Currently, 50 million Americans have no health insurance, and that number grows each year. Still, millions of those uninsured continue to access the health care system each year and many don't pay for the services they receive.
The doctors, hospitals and clinics providing that care aren't providing it for free. Instead, they're cost-shifting those losses to patients with health insurance through higher health insurance premiums, higher deductibles, higher copays and higher taxes (for Medicare and Medicaid).
This year, the amount of uncompensated care exceeded $73 billion, most of which was shifted to Americans with insurance and their employers. That explains why health insurance costs continue to outpace the rate of inflation by double digits.
The individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act requires all Americans to take personal responsibility for their health care and pay their fair share. If the individual mandate is not upheld, the cost of health care for people with health insurance and their employers will continue to skyrocket.
Richard Giorgio, West Palm Beach
Doubts cloud nuclear pay plan | Aug. 14
Charge for nuclear plant
is outrage for consumers
This article shows that the Office of Public Counsel is not working in the public interest. Progress Energy should not be allowed to make any charges prior to completion of its nuclear plant. Its lobbyists had an easy task persuading the Legislature in 2006 to prefer Progress Energy's interests above its customers'.
Progress has argued that customers' payments up front save payments of interest on bonds normally used to finance a new plant. But the customers paying the bonds' interest would have electricity. Customers paying now have nothing to show for their payments. They are performing the function of shareholders or bondholders without being sold shares or bonds in exchange for their payments.
This is an outrage. Instead of calling for a reduction of advance payments, the Office of Public Counsel should be arguing for no payments until the nuclear plant is operational. This is especially true now, as even Progress Energy's forecasts push the completion, if any, of the plant into the ever-further mists of speculation.
Michael P. Porter, Clearwater
Aftereffects of terror
As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the dedication of a memorial to the fallen of that dreadful day approaches, our nation still shows the aftereffects of terror.
Many Americans are emotionally numb, having lost their sense of empathy or interest in the American ideal of promoting the general welfare. They are bunkered in, looking for someone to blame, their own safety and security in a hostile world now paramount.
Hopelessness, the sense that there is no future and all is lost, is now the identity of many Americans. Most striking are the difficulties concentrating on important issues (e.g., jobs and our future as a country, not as individuals) and the hyper-vigilance to imagined threats (seeing tyranny around every corner). Terror has made this a place where hate of anything we disagree with has become a comfortable friend and way of life for some; people feel vulnerable without it.
Is our monument to that fateful, tragic day a sign of strength — a strength we seem to have left behind — or a sign of that moment when as a result of terror we lost our way and found false strength in hate?
Jack Darkes, Temple Terrace
Benefits have been paid for
When we hear about the debt, the Republicans usually cast blame on the cost of something they call entitlements. What they really mean is Social Security. Why are the Republicans so concerned about Social Security? After all, the U.S. government doesn't pay for Social Security. I paid for those benefits, not the government, not Sen. Mitch McConnell, not House Speaker John Boehner nor any other Republican fat cat. So yes I am "entitled" to it, but not as a gift from the government.
I paid for it by payroll deduction from my salary and I expect the government to live up to its commitments to me and other Social Security beneficiaries.
The federal surplus of 2000 disappeared under President George W. Bush. Bush borrowed heavily from the Social Security surplus, which helped conceal the fact that federal taxes were not bringing in enough revenue to pay for his wars and his tax cuts.
Based on these facts, Social Security should not be on the table for deficit reduction discussions.
Merrill P. Friend, Tampa
Political cover for cuts
The congressional "super committee" composed of six Democrats and an equal number of Republicans has already made their decision to rob us blind in November. All we need to do is analyze who has been appointed to the committee to predict the outcome — and it is not good for the average American citizen.
This committee is designed to provide political cover for both Democrats and Republicans so they can rob Americans of tens of thousands in Social Security benefits without the voting public assigning specific blame to any one representative. We have paid into Social Security over our entire working lives, and it has not contributed a single dime to the national deficit. In fact, there is a $2.5 trillion surplus in the Social Security trust fund, and the program is fully solvent until 2037. We will also be able to honor the vast majority of its commitments well after that. Discussing a decrease in these benefits that we have already paid for is outrageous.
Scot H. Nichols, Brandon