Blood and organ donors
Health system needs more donors
Valentine's Day was also National Donor Day. This day honored the quiet heroes who save lives by donating whole blood, marrow and organs. Four percent of the eligible population is providing the blood supply for the entire nation, and that number is falling because the Greatest Generation is passing on.
To their great credit, high school and university students are stepping onto the bloodmobiles to provide 12 percent of the red cells, platelets and plasma that are needed. Some 12 million Americans have registered for bone marrow donation to keep leukemia, lymphoma and blood disorder patients alive.
The drive is on to register many more, especially Hispanics, African-Americans, American Indians and those from the Asia-Pacific region. There are 121,000 people waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant.
Our health care system requires more than premiums and co-payments; it requires active participation.
Bob Wise, Tampa
Lawmakers cite report to call out red-light cameras | Feb. 12
Seat belts likely the cause
While the report from the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability concluded fatalities at red-light camera intersections on state roads declined by 49 percent, three facts affirm it was not due to cameras. Instead, the reduction in fatalities appears due to the primary seat belt law that was passed one year prior to the camera law.
• The camera law was passed in 2010, making it the reference year. Florida's Traffic Crash Facts reports 48 fatal red-light running crashes occurred in 2010 and 51 in 2012. A statewide reduction in fatal red-light running crashes has not occurred despite the widespread use of cameras.
• The stated purpose of cameras is to reduce "angle crashes" from red-light running, where the front of one vehicle runs into the side of another. However, the report said "angle crashes" increased by 22 percent following the use of cameras, meaning the reduction in fatalities was not due to fewer "angle crashes."
• Seat belts do not prevent a crash from occurring, but can prevent a fatality, especially as unbelted people can be thrown from a vehicle, particularly in angle crashes. The report said injury crashes were essentially unchanged after camera use; however, fewer were fatal. This is consistent with increased seat belt use. Angle crashes increased, yet fatalities decreased, which would occur with increased seat belt use.
Barbara Langland Orban, associate professor of health policy and management, USF College of Public Health, Tampa
Too many reckless drivers
This report shows that crashes are down 19 percent and fatalities are down 49 percent — these statistics alone are all the justification for red-light cameras we need.
What is state Sen. Jeff Brandes' real reason for getting rid of them? The idea that revenue from fines of offenders is a bad thing is silly — this revenue is no different than that obtained from any other traffic violation fine. Keep the red-light cameras. Too many drivers are still running red lights, but I believe numbers will diminish once derelict drivers realize there is a price to pay. Caving at this point only encourages reckless, dangerous driving.
Marilyn Renner, Dunedin
Free-market health care Feb. 14, commentary
Correct market failure
This column stated that our health care system has failed primarily because consumers haven't been able to price-shop, and used the counter-examples of Lazik eye surgery and cosmetic surgery prices dropping due to price competition.
Lazik and cosmetic surgery are luxury consumer goods, not health care in any meaningful way. Those providers have to compete with other luxury goods for buyers' dollars. This is not analogous to someone with a chronic, deadly or painful disease.
It's true that consumers can't price-shop for medical services, but medical insurance companies, the ones who actually pay the service providers, can. Why has the business-to-business market of insurance companies and providers not forced falling and transparent prices and better, not worse, efficiencies than European state-run plans or Medicaid and VA government plans here?
The reason is simple and obvious to all non-free market fundamentalists. People will not price-shop when they or their loved ones are gravely, painfully or potentially terminally ill, especially for complex services they have absolutely no expertise in. As a result, the free-market incentives for providers are the reverse of what they would be for nonessential goods, and medical gouging and chaos has gotten progressively worse over time.
A fairly simple solution to market pricing failure would be for the National Institutes of Health to catalog, and bundle, a list of standard medical services and force market providers to prepublish their prices for them.
Robert Clark, Tampa
I, too, look forward to a Super Bowl ad about health care. We all need to be more conscious of costs and ask questions about price before saying yes to procedures that our doctors recommend. It's still awkward, however, and providers need to stop complaining and get with the program.
Doctors should put the costs out for everybody to see, removing the mystery and allowing us all to make more intelligent medical care decisions by ourselves. This approach to health care, a free-market approach, will in the end be better for everybody.
Diana Carsey, Dunedin
Keep private life private | Feb. 14, letter
Love is in the air
A letter writer criticizes football player Michael Sam's public coming out as an "embarassing" revelation of "the ultimate private matter." Okay, fine, but let's also get rid of: proms, engagements, marriages, pictures of spouses at work, diamond rings, couple's nights, bachelor/ette television shows, and — of course — Valentine's Day. Like your letter writer, "I don't care to hear it." I am tired of those people throwing their heterosexual lifestyle in my face all the time.
Jonathan Coleman, St. Petersburg