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Lawmakers should use plain English, too

Plain English is best policy | Aug. 23, commentary

Lawmakers should use plain English, too

I certainly agree with John Cogan Jr. (executive counsel to the Rhode Island health insurance commissioner) as he laments about the need for health insurance policies to be written in a way that consumers are able to understand the provisions in their own policies.

To address this problem, Cogan says that it has been determined that the average Rhode Islander reads at an eighth-grade level and beginning next year, all insurance policies in his state will be written to that reading level. Good for him!

Cogan also sites that the health care reform bill under consideration in the House of Representatives includes a proposal that certain disclosures in insurance policies be made in "plain language." He could also point out that there is little or no "plain language" in the 1,000-plus- page health care reform bill itself, which is written in language creating ambiguity in interpretation, not understandable to people at any grade level, college degree plus! It is painfully obvious that even our congressmen and senators do not understand what is written into the various versions of the health care reform bill as they stand before us in town halls meetings to try to explain it to us.

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers stated, "I love these members (other congressmen), they get up and say, read the bill! What good is reading the bill if it's a thousand pages and you don't have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?"

If our senators and congressmen don't understand the language in the bills they write, why don't they just require that all the bills written in the Senate or House be written to the level of an eighth grader? Then, members of Congress could read and understand the bills that they put their names on or be able to understand the bills they vote on. Maybe this would even encourage them to read the bills!

Carolyn Cormey, Clearwater

Let's be honest about death counseling Aug. 24

Don't dismiss the value of living wills

I am outraged at the disingenuous viewpoint columnist Charles Krauthammer espoused in his Aug. 24 column.

Krauthammer begins by asking us to have "a reasoned discussion about end-of-life counseling." But then he continues by cavalierly dismissing the carefully crafted, thoughtfully detailed end-of-life wishes reflected in our living wills, calling them "quite beside the point."

I find that attitude to be the height of arrogance. I believe we should all have the right to determine beforehand whether we want extraordinary measures taken to extend our lives and, if so, under what circumstances they ought to be used.

I do not want a doctor, or even a relative, overriding my wishes in order to fulfill a personal or political agenda of theirs. I believe the better view is the one Dr. Lodovico Balducci outlined in the Aug. 23 St. Petersburg Times, (We live to fulfill a unique calling) reminding us of the central fact that "the prolongation of life becomes really the burdensome prolongation of death."

I, like many others, have seen the crippling financial and emotional burden that the prolongation of death often brings. Far better is relieving loved ones of that awesome responsibility by clearly and specifically spelling out one's end-of-life wishes so there can be no mistake, no confusion and no unwarranted or unsubstantiated guess about what one's terminal wishes would be.

We each have the right to decide what is ultimately most important to us — holding onto life as long as possible, or gracefully letting go in the hopes of maintaining a sense of personal dignity and style.

Hal Alterman, Clearwater

Let's be honest about death counseling Aug. 24

Our fear of death

Charles Krauthammer, like so many of us, just hates to admit that we are all going to die. With myriad machines, chemicals and gadgets, we can "live" to be in pain while our family is proving to themselves that they are doing "everything" they can to keep us with them.

Krauthammer has missed the point. I suppose he thinks buying life insurance is also a sign that we are ready to give up. Of the recent columns on death and dying, one by Dr. Lodovico Balducci, a caring physician, is honest about death counseling. With all our hangups, perhaps it's best to use his biblical quote, "There is a time to be born and a time to die."

Sarah Palin knew how to rattle everyone's cages by using the word the term "death panels." Death is a term rarely used here. Euphemisms like "passing" and "going home" are preferred.

We may be in the minority, but my husband and I have an advance directive and a living will, recently updated because of new Florida laws.

I've seen families arguing in hospital waiting rooms about what "grandma" would have wanted. It would be great if we, as squeamish Americans, could handle this, because it's part of our life experience.

Lilyan Dayton, New Port Richey

Let's be honest about death counseling Aug. 24

Another smokescreen

The St. Petersburg Times' articles about President Barack Obama's health care legislation usually mention the Sarah Palin claim that it features death panels and euthanasia and, although you invariably point out that the claim is nonsense (which it is), it also should be publicly repudiated by responsible Republican leaders lest, repeated often enough, it find credence among uninformed people.

The false Palin claim is illustrative also of the smokescreen that opponents of universal health care are using to deny 45 million or more Americans long-due, affordable health care.

Has partisan political discussion returned to the bad old days of Lee Atwater's half-truths, untruths and character assassination?

Joseph H. Francis, St. Petersburg

Hand in hand, musician, wife end lives July 15

Quantity over quality

Two prominent people committed suicide together in a clinic in Switzerland. They were the well-known British composer, Sir Edward Downes, and his wife, Lady Joan. Assisted suicide is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Switzerland and in the American states of Washington and Oregon.

The assisted suicide of two prominent people brought up the controversial issue of assisted suicide/euthanasia. Why are so many people concerned about the quantity of life over quality of life? The debate around the morality of the act is truly one that an individual must decide for him or herself. This is not for "the village" to decide.

Elvina L. Bergmann, St. Pete Beach

Health care reform

We have rationing now

I've been insured either through my employment, or my husband's, for the past 37 years. We have always selected the best coverage available and, trust me, it's rationed. If my doctor or dentist of choice is "outside the plan," I pay more for treatment. About a month ago my insurance company refused to approve a prescription, thus delaying treatment while my doctor examined the alternatives. More recently my husband experienced the same prescription refusal. How, in anyone's mind, is this not health care rationing?

What are these opponents to health care reform talking about? What insurance plan are they on, where physician-prescribed medications and procedures aren't routinely denied by the insurance company?

At least I have health insurance. There are about 47 million in this country whose health care is acutely rationed: If it costs too much they go without.

Pat Bastian, Tampa

Lawmakers should use plain English, too 08/25/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 6:52pm]
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