2-cent tax hike draws anger | Nov. 18
Growers fighting citrus disease
I would like to clarify a few points about agriculture bill HB 981. The Legislature wisely overrode a veto of it last week and in doing so did not raise taxes on Florida citrus growers. Your newspaper's characterization was misguided.
Instead, lawmakers, by a 155-2 vote, raised the cap on the Florida citrus industry's self-imposed research assessment from 1 to 3 cents per box. In other words, the Legislature enabled citrus growers to impose up to a 3-cent per box assessment to fund critical research. A public board comprised mostly of growers sets the assessment each year, not the Legislature. They've done so for 18 years.
Florida citrus growers overwhelmingly support HB 981. Our $9 billion industry is battling an insidious disease known as citrus greening. The disease spreads fast, kills trees and can be found in all 32 commercial citrus producing counties; it threatens our entire industry and generations of family farms. Uncovering a solution through research is the key to defeating greening, and that takes money.
Florida growers have spent an estimated $39 million out of their own pockets over the past four years on disease research. In making HB 981 law, the Legislature allowed us the flexibility to keep pace with changing research funding needs. We as an industry have identified a challenge and are taking the steps to solve it ourselves.
This type of self-determinism should be applauded regardless of political ideology, not miscast as a tax increase to generate headlines.
Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president, CEO, Florida Citrus Mutual, Lakeland
One more thing to share | Nov. 18
A beautiful example
The story of Debbie Ismer's lifesaving kidney transplant from her friend, fellow nurse Pam Mizerany, is a beautiful example of the many miracles created annually by the gift of living kidney donation.
Unfortunately, with nearly 80 percent of the transplant waiting list for organ transplants made up of those who need a kidney, not every patient will find a living donor. For those patients who don't, their gift of life must come from someone who made the decision to donate their organs after death.
Pam's generosity, and that of anonymous individuals who donate each year after they pass away, sets an example for the rest of us. Decide to become an organ donor through Florida's Donor Registry or when renewing your driver's license or ID card.
One organ donor can save the lives of eight people and impact many more through tissue donation.
There are more than 109,000 people like Debbie Ismer waiting for a lifesaving transplant, more than 87,000 of whom are awaiting kidneys alone. Each of us has an opportunity to become a hero when we say "yes" to organ donation.
Jennifer Krouse, Tampa
Early bird gets the deal | Nov. 19
Better things to do
The Davenport family will be taking turns sleeping in a tent outside a St. Petersburg Best Buy waiting for the store to open on "Black Friday." They hold the distinction of being the first people in line at any Best Buy in the country — appearing nine days before the store will offer its special sales.
Lorie Davenport told a television reporter, "We're tired of not being first." What will be the spoils of being the first ones in the store? What sort of treasure are they expecting? A TV, an iMac, maybe a DVD player. Of all the issues and things in the world for one person, or one family, to spend nine days devoting their lives to, the Davenports have chosen the acquisition of a TV and laptops.
One would think that this is not news. But it was posted on Drudge Report and featured on local and national news websites.
Are we so lost as a people that we will arbitrarily give up nine days of our lives to wait in line? Are we so materialistic to be able to justify this? Have we lost sight of priorities, families and self-realization so much that camping out in front of a retail location is okay?
Life is precious. We only get one shot on this big blue marble to create a legacy, have a family and friends, and to better ourselves and the world around us.
Why is the economy down? Why do we continue to elect politicians who fail to meet our expectations? Why do other countries routinely outpace us in education? Because we are camping out for a TV.
Rob Pearson, Tampa
A lot of work for 96 cents
Recently I visited a specialist for a medical issue. The insurance paid their part, and I paid my copayment. Later I received a bill for 96 cents that apparently wasn't covered. It seemed absurd to send a stamped envelope and use office payroll to attempt to collect this amount.
I let it go to see what would happen. They sent two more stamped envelopes with bills for the 96 cents. I waited again just to see how far in the red they would go.
They sent it to collections (which only gives them 50 percent), who sent me two bills, then called me. I checked my credit report and, as I already knew, medical bills do not appear.
I told them of my experiment and paid by debit over the phone. Why not set a minimum of $1 or even $2 on medical bills as an unofficial "rule of thumb" for medical providers and save everyone stamps, checks, payroll and jamming up the postal system when the provider has already been paid a significant amount?
Rachel Hoffman, Spring Hill
Improve, don't dump, health reform Editorial, Nov. 15
Give the healthy a break
I read this editorial twice to make sure I wasn't missing how the Times would "improve" the bill. It wasn't there. The editorial did point out that "everyone — sick and healthy — must be part of an insurance pool to keep rates at reasonable levels and make other reforms possible."
A reform I would recommend to Congress is to reward people who choose a healthy lifestyle with lower premiums. My wife and I operate a two-partner consulting company. We don't smoke, we exercise religiously, we don't eat fast food; a lot of people might say we're skinny.
Our "reward" for doing the right things that the medical community and first lady Michelle Obama champion are insurance rates that have risen 44 percent in two years — with an $11,000 deductible.
I suspect my wife and I are part of a very nice profit center for our health insurer. While I agree with sharing risk, I believe it is unfair to bear a disproportionate share of the costs. My recommendation would be to have Congress force insurers to realign the risk pools so that a part of the benefit of the personal investment in a healthy lifestyle is shared with all, and part is returned back to those who are doing their part to reduce health care costs, starting at the dinner table.
Dan Engel, Palm Harbor
Medicare pay cut could cut off new patient access | Nov. 13
Scaring the elderly
We've heard it all before: scaring the elderly as they did with the health care bill. In this case it's the doctors who want to preserve their very handsome incomes.
The idea that they would quit servicing Medicare patients because their reimbursements are not handsome enough doesn't hold much water. Where would they get their income? After all, seniors are the biggest and most frequent users of health care and provide a steady income to the practitioners.
Surgeon Karen Wagner said: "Medicine is a business. Private practice is a business." We used to think that the practice of medicine was a dedication to helping the sick.
Paul Mathieu, Sun City Center
Too many out of work
The continued talk of gradually raising the retirement age for Social Security is all well and good, except for one small glitch: There are not jobs to keep people working that long even if they do have the stamina.
Many people I know in their mid 50s have been let go. Companies are downsizing, and it's good business to get rid of the higher-salaried employees first and later rehire younger people at a lower wage. Younger people are also seen as more tech-savvy, with fewer health problems — a better bargain all around.
They should be talking of lowering the retirement age, but of course those in charge have mismanaged yet another government program and can't afford such largesse. Or so we are told.
Gail Burke, Hudson