Aid for the aged can provide dividends
In their effort to manage Florida's current fiscal crisis, our state lawmakers are looking for ways to tighten the state's budget belt by investing in those programs that are proven effective and provide the greatest return by avoiding other costs. We think long-term care for the elderly and disabled is one area where such investments can be made.
First, the challenge: A growing number of Florida's older residents depend on publicly supported long-term care services as they age and become impaired. This number is set to double over the next 20 years, which could overwhelm the state's capacity to meet their needs for services unless steps are taken now and sustained in coming years. This would be a difficult challenge, even with a strong economy.
Now, the opportunity: Florida's private, non-profit Aging Network offers a unique resource to deliver cost-effective long-term care services and avoid the greater cost of placing older Floridians in nursing homes. The Florida Aging Network consists of 11 Area Agencies on Aging and hundreds of service providers, including the Community Care for the Elderly lead agencies available in most counties.
The services delivered are essential to helping thousands of Floridians remain in the community as long as possible. That's a great fiscal benefit to the state, since these programs cost between 10 and 50 percent as much as nursing home care, making them the most cost-effective programs in Florida's long-term care system.
Unfortunately, funding for most of these programs has been cut in recent legislative sessions, even as the number of frail elders needing services has grown. Florida now has more than 30,000 individuals on waiting lists for community services.
The expansion of the Aging Network's community-based programs could simultaneously increase the state's capacity to meet the growing need for long-term care services and contain future costs to the state by containing nursing home use. That's the opportunity before our lawmakers. We urge them to seize it.
Larry Polivka, Ph.D., scholar in residence, Claude Pepper Foundation, Tallahassee
Health insurance premiums
These costs are out of control
I just received my company health insurance renewal from Humana: a 23 percent increase this year. This increase is compounded upon a 14 percent increase last year and similar increases over the past 15 years.
While I understand that my family is getting older and thus faces the possibility of more health issues, I see this as way out of line with inflation and any quality of life numbers that I have seen over the past year. Inflation has been minimal and our family is healthier than ever. The system is absolutely broken yet our Congress continues to politicize the issue.
If both parties agree with 80 percent of the new plan, why should we start over? How about some leadership? Isn't that why we pay these guys?
If it is all about getting re-elected, then maybe we need term limits on Congress so they don't have to compromise their principles at the expense of the taxpayers. Then again, it could just be all that health care lobbyist money lining their re-election pockets.
Richard Cavalieri, Tampa
Spend more, die sooner claim is backed by stats | March 4, PolitiFact
Mitt Romney makes a good point about how Americans do not live as long as people in other countries that spend far less on health care than the United States.
Most if not all of those countries don't have "for profit" health insurance companies, but run government health care plans. There's a point right here as to which system seems to be working better.
William Shumaker, Tampa
Health vote plan unfolds | March 4, story
A close vote
In this story, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is quoted as saying, "History is clear: Big legislation always requires big majorities."
Half true. History is indeed clear that in 2003, the Senate leadership, including then-Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, used reconciliation to bring George W. Bush's second round of tax cuts to the floor. History is also clear that the Senate deadlocked at 50-50 before Vice President Dick Cheney broke the tie to pass the legislation.
I'm just a mathematician, but in my understanding, neither 50-50 nor 51-50 is considered a "big majority." Perhaps McConnell believes that a tax cut in the hundreds of billions of dollars does not qualify as "big legislation." Or perhaps he's counting on what many have called "The United States of Amnesia" to get away with his outrageous statement.
Bill Rosenthal, Land O'Lakes
Speakership deserves better | March 3, letter
The Legislature is not representative of the voters and therefore undemocratic. It is also corrupt. What has enabled these ills? Gerrymandering, which will be ameliorated by voters passing the "Fair Districts" constitutional amendments (Nos. 5 and 6) on Nov. 2.
Florida has more registered Democrats but a majority of Republicans in elective office. Why? Gerrymandering! It would be just as evil if we had a majority of Republicans and a majority of elected Democrats. Gerrymandering is arbitrarily setting the boundaries of electoral districts to compress huge majorities of one party in a few districts and spreading out small majorities of the other party (now the one in power and drawing the district lines) over a larger number of districts, guaranteeing the election of in-power party candidates. It also guarantees re-election of a smaller number of the other party's candidates, reducing the likelihood that they'll scream too loudly.
Vote and pass 5 and 6!
Joseph F. Bohren, Ph.D., Odessa
TIA tests for bomb residue | March 2, story
Use sense in screening
I was pleased to read that Tampa International Airport is now using the new portable scanners to check travelers for explosive residue on their hands.
It is also reassuring to see that Tampa has the new MMW (millimeter wave technology) scanners. These achieved publicity because some were worried about privacy intrusion, as those operating the machine could see all parts of the subject's body.
In January at TIA I was pulled over by a courteous TSA official who told me I had been specially selected for observation by this machine, and was given the full scan. I was happy to comply.
My only concern is that it seems travelers subjected to this machine, which obviously costs a lot in time and money, are seemingly chosen at random, rather than by any profiling. In my own case, I am a white European traveling with my wife, and we are both in our 70s. A cursory glance at our passports would have confirmed that we have had U.S. visas for the last 10 years and we had traveled in out of Tampa from London twice a year during that period. Obviously terrorists come in all shapes and sizes, but I would have thought that we would have been considered unlikely candidates for suddenly deciding to blow ourselves up in an airplane.
It is great to have all this new technology, but I feel it has to be used sensibly. If this means profiling, and giving extra checks on those who are considered most likely to be possible terrorists, then why not?
Tony Groom, St. Petersburg