Advantage, insurance companies | Dec. 7, editorial
Medicare Advantage is good for seniors
One of the reasons this country is in the mess we're in is that over the past 30 years, we have made some very bad decisions. The editorial urges us to make another one by precipitously throwing away the current Medicare Advantage programs.
The research and analysis leading up to this decision come from two organizations I know nothing about and whose motives may very well not be pure. I don't know how many seniors these people talked to before they put together their reports, but as a two-year participant in the program, I believe I can be more honest and objective as to the program's value.
With 11-million seniors in the program now, it would seem that the argument that attributes the program's popularity to heavy advertising and "enticements" is more than somewhat disingenuous and an insult to the intelligence of the seniors who have signed up.
While the costs to the government may have increased, I believe that will be made up by the reduction in Medicare fraud. (Private insurers will do a much better job of smoking out fraud because it is in their best interests to do so. People who work for the government have little incentives to save taxpayer dollars.)
In the area of costs, with my wife and I both enrolled in the program, we save between $6,000 and $7,000 per year for the two of us just in the premiums we would have to pay for Medicare and a Medicare supplement plan. This doesn't even take into consideration the amount saved on drugs. We also get help on vision, hearing, health-club membership and over-the-counter medicines. Our medical bills have been reduced drastically over the past two years by Medicare Advantage plans. It would be a travesty to take away one of the few good things that have happened to seniors over the past 10 years.
I urge the St. Petersburg Times to do more research on the subject and try to get the facts before it draws any more conclusions about these programs.
Dave Groff, Homosassa
New physicians, get some sleep Dec. 8, editorial
Long hospital shifts can be dangerous
I have often wondered why medical residents are allowed or mandated to work long hours. It has always been dangerous to patients, themselves and to the community at large.
Think about it. Your editorial focuses mostly on the reduction of residents' hours rather than on such things as providing more accurate diagnosis for the patient, protecting themselves and fellow workers from accidents such as sticking themselves, or considering the gross danger of leaving the hospital after long hours and then driving. This exposes other drivers to residents who are far more likely to have auto accidents than physicians working normal hours. Residents have one of the highest auto accident rates of all health care workers. Lack of sleep has a similar effect as excess alcohol consumption.
This reduction of hours is about time. It is no longer a macho thing to be working that long. It is plain dangerous.
Jeff Knott, Apollo Beach
For elderly care, too few specialists Dec. 7, story
On the front lines
This was an excellent article pointing out a really huge looming crisis: the shortage of physician gerontologists. You missed an important local resource, however, in not interviewing the chief of the division of gerontology in the department of medicine at USF.
Vincent Peron. M.D., is an exceptionally fine and caring physician who is in charge of training the next generation of gerontologists. As you pointed out, this is an increasingly difficult task given the declining interest among medical students in this indispensable specialty.
Because of our demographics, the Tampa Bay area is way ahead of the rest of the nation in dealing with this problem, but we're not much help so far in coming up with solutions. We are standing on the beach unaware or ignoring the coming tsunami of aging baby boomers who will need Dr. Peron's medical attention and the services of this declining number of trainees.
Reed Murtagh, Tampa
More options needed
Change is needed, and one most critical area would be our health care system. I am a senior citizen of limited means, as are many others, and I look to Medicare/Medicaid for my health care. Fortunately, I have a good medical doctor but, unfortunately, I happen to be intolerant of most prescription drugs — those covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Our current health care system supports the use of pharmaceuticals but never alternative healing sources, which are often less expensive than conventional methods.
The reason? Because drug lobbyists have spent years in Washington, wining and dining our politicians, convincing Food and Drug Administration members of the "dangers" of alternative sources of healing. Let's be frank! The only "danger" is to pharmaceutical company pocketbooks.
I have brought this situation to the attention of President-elect Barack Obama and members of his staff, advocating support for alternative treatment methods. Time for change! Seniors could be given a card, much like a food-stamp card, allocating a general limited monthly amount for alternative sources, should they so choose.
Write to Washington. Tell them you want the freedom of choice, and that you want it subsidized — the same as conventional healing methods.
Sandra J. McEwen, St. Petersburg
Smokers, it's time to inhale | Dec. 3, Sue Carlton column
Smokers won't take it
In this column, Sue Carlton states that she would support an increase in the cigarette tax. I disagree with her and do not support a tax increase.
I sell tobacco products to adult customers. It accounts for virtually all of my sales. But I'm not alone. Tobacco sales are responsible for as many as 10,000 jobs in this state. A 50-cent to $1 per pack cigarette tax increase will diminish the retail and wholesale industry's gross retail value by $500-million to $1-billion and could displace up to 2,400 workers. Those people deserve jobs too.
Smokers won't stand for the increase. They will go to the Internet or take a drive to a tax-free smoke shop on the Seminole reservation. They will not just sit back and take the increase.
And nobody wants kids to get cigarettes. In fact, I just read that in sting operations by the federal government, Florida retailers refused to sell to the minors around 93 percent of the time. Also, according to the state health department, only about 15 percent of Florida kids in high school smoke. That's down from 27 percent in 1998, or more than 44 percent. And that's with no tax increases.
Fred Hoyland, Tampa
Free market works
After a year and a half of having to listen to everyone blame high gas prices on price speculators, corrupt oil executives, OPEC and anyone else people could point a finger at, it is nice to see headlines like "Gas prices down due to lower demand." Idiotic slogans like "Drill, baby, drill" and unnecessary plans to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Gulf of Mexico and anywhere else are all gone because the supply-and-demand model that is taught in economics class actually works.
The demand for gas fell and prices followed. The free market really does work!
That should be an example to everyone that our government's market bailout cannot trump the forces of the free market. It will just delay the inevitable market correction. For some reason our government doesn't even believe in the small government, laissez-faire attitude that long was their campaign slogan.
Scott Harris, Tampa
Count our blessings
Enough of the naysayers already! In 1973-74 during the energy crisis and long lines at gas stations, many said that we would run out of gas in about 10 years. Then it was predicted by some that in 1982 the planets would align and that would result in catastrophic flooding.
I also remember the Y2K hype that we heard from doomsday individuals. They were convinced that on Jan. 1, 2000, all computers would fail, which would result in worldwide chaos.
I realize we are going through difficult times, but we will only intensify them if we continue to let the naysayers amplify them. Let's be thankful that many community members are helping each other out. Let's count our blessings!
Carl E. Graham, Largo
A span of smiles
Have you looked up lately as you cross our shiny marigold-yellow Sunshine Skyway bridge that connects Manatee and Pinellas counties? It brings a smile to your face! The newly installed lights on the cables make for a beautiful evening view. Thanks to the Florida Department of Transportation, we can once again be proud of this beautifully designed bridge.
More than 2,000 cars cross our bridge daily. That's a lot of smiles!
Ann Jerman, Bradenton