Health care legislation
Reform can aid the mentally ill
The more than 600,000 Floridians living with mental illness face tremendous hurdles to living normal, healthy lives — accessing health care should not be one of them. As Floridians struggle with continuously increasing health costs, critical health services are often sacrificed. This creates problems for patients, health providers and our economy, problems that must be addressed by health reform.
The proposed health reform bills address several crucial obstacles individuals with mental illnesses face when trying to access comprehensive health care. Affordable coverage would be extended to 4 million Floridians, and those with insurance would receive vital added protections, such as free preventive services and the elimination of limits on coverage and benefits. Individuals with mental illnesses and other pre-existing conditions would no longer be discriminated against by health insurance companies. Medicare beneficiaries (more than 500,000 in Florida) will see 50 percent of their drug costs paid for when they reach the doughnut hole.
I would like to thank our members of Congress who have worked so hard to advance this legislation and encourage them to continue advocating for the millions of Floridians who cannot continue to wait for quality, affordable care.
Judi Evans, executive director, National Alliance on Mental Illness-Florida, Tallahassee
Obama wants "Cadillac tax" in bill Jan. 7, story
All Americans deserve quality health care
I am very much in favor of comprehensive health care reform. But let's be clear about what exactly is a "Cadillac Plan" or "Gold Plated Benefits Package." This is the kind of health coverage that every American deserves. Health care should be a right in this country, and reform must put healthy results before insurance profits. This means quality, affordable coverage for everyone.
This excise tax would force a broad swath of the middle class to pay for health reform in the form of higher taxes, reduced coverage and higher out-of-pocket expenses. The excise tax would violate two fundamental commitments of health reform: that workers should be able to keep the coverage they have and that their health care benefits should not be taxed.
Tax cuts since 2001 have disproportionately benefitted the richest 5 percent of Americans. One alternative to the excise tax is an income tax surcharge that would effectively require the wealthiest 1 percent to give back some, but not all, of the Bush tax cuts.
It's important that President Barack Obama and Congress agree in the end on a bill that provides all families with premiums they can afford to pay and doesn't have high deductibles so that we all can get health care when we need it.
Chrystal Hutchison, Brandon
Child abuse deaths rose 20% in 2008 Dec. 30, story
This is a crisis
I was outraged to read this article on Page 8B. The fatal abuse of children on the increase should be on the front page; we should all be outraged to the point of action.
To quote the AP article, "In 2008, 79 children were killed who had some type of involvement with the Department of Children and Families in the past five years, compared with 66 children who died in 2007."
That hardly tells the story. Every citizen has a part in this crisis. It is not the sole responsibility of DCF. Let's ask — no, let's demand — our state legislators and administrators find funds to staff and provide oversight to serve our children. There are rainy day funds for all sorts of needs. Let's demand the use of the funds for this crisis.
Gov. Charlie Crist should issue an executive order reallocating funds. Seventy-nine children? That is a crisis. Children are our legacy. Speak to your state representative or senator today.
You can also become a Guardian ad Litem to advocate for an abused, abandoned or neglected child. You just might save a life.
Norm Bungard, St. Petersburg
After 35-year wait, learning to be free Jan. 4, story
A difficult adjustment
Thank you so much for the story about James Bain's struggles to adapt to life outside of prison. It's eye-opening.
After dealing with outrage about the way this innocent person had been treated, I found myself wondering how the guilty also adapt to the strange world of "the outside," particularly if, unlike Bain, they have no family members helping them. They have, after all, "paid their debt to society," and it's our fervent hope that they will become productive citizens. But I have to wonder if this difficult adjustment contributes to the too-high recidivism rate. Certainly when we're full of anxiety we're sorely tempted to rush back into the familiar.
I applaud Bain's family members for their loving support, and am very pleased that we will, in our own bureaucratic time, award him some money — as if that could make up for taking away so much of his life and distorting the rest of it. (How is it that prosecutors responsible for these miscarriages of justice never pay any penalty for them?)
If this adjustment is so difficult for an innocent man with supportive family, how is it handled by those who have no one to help them?
Eileen O'Sullivan, St. Petersburg
For Crist, mojo fades | Jan. 2
Crist shows courage
Isn't it time we saw a Republican who can speak for himself and not repeat the party line like the rest of the parrots? This is the first Republican we have seen during the past year who is his own man.
The St. Petersburg Times reports that Gov. Charlie Crist has lost his momentum and is slipping in the polls. We watch sad and angry men and women report all the negative opinions on our news channels. We are hearing the same fear tactics that we heard during the whole Bush administration, and we have yet to see a positive suggestion or solution from these angry people.
For eight years we watched crooked bankers, corrupt Wall Street brokers and other corporate officers reap large salaries and bonuses for poor management and inept advice while the average workers were losing their jobs and homes. Where was the oversight while these greedy people continued their rape of our economy? Records have shown the banking industry and the auto industry people were aware of the problems, and Wall Street just rode along, saying it will work.
Charlie Crist has shown bipartisan courage and support for our state, the economy, the nation and our duly elected president.
Frank Justison, St. Petersburg
Rumors as news
As a devout reader of both Tampa Bay area newspapers, I am disappointed to see the Times slipping off its traditional perch of sound news judgment.
A case in point is the ongoing briefs about golfer Tiger Woods, whose latest escapades are printed either as rumor (how culturally quaint) or come from one of many "alleged" mistresses (meaning no facts exist to verify any involvement).
If such claims were made against a local politician or prominent resident, an editor would demand credible sources and more responsible reporting.
Kurt Loft, Tampa