Trauma care outcomes should be focus, not fees | March 12, commentary
Higher costs don't improve care
HCA executive Darwin Noel Ang carries on the for-profit hospital Kabuki dance with the public by conflating the outcomes of trauma care with the charges. Trauma systems do save lives and decrease morbidity — this has been well-documented for decades. The public should expect a similarity of quality of care at any Florida hospital that has a trauma center designation from the oversight body, the American College of Surgeons. Quality of care within each hospital is monitored by that institution's specific process, which, for the most part, is legally protected from public inquiry.
I have experience as a neurosurgeon who spent much of my 26 years of private practice in the emergency rooms of various Hillsborough County hospitals caring for such trauma patients. Higher charges for health care have been shown, across the delivery spectrum, not to correlate with better quality of care. In my opinion, the outlier charges and billing practices of HCA are meant for two purposes only: to maximize shareholder return on investment and to highly compensate its executive leadership.
Donald L. Mellman, M.D., Tampa
All would benefit from increase March 12, letter
The letter writer, like most of the folks in Washington, appears to be unaware of the law of unintended consequences. A 39 percent increase in the minimum wage sounds great, but what about the experienced workers already making $10 per hour — wouldn't they then expect a raise, based on their seniority and experience? What about the supervisors making $15 per hour — would they sit quietly when others have gotten such a large raise?
The cost increase to businesses would indeed result in higher prices, but they certainly would not be "minimal and hardly noticed." When everyone has to suddenly pay more for the same goods and services, it's known as inflation, which works its way throughout the economy, up to the interest rates paid on bonds, loans and even the national debt. If the interest rate rose only 1 percent, that's an additional $170 billion per year added to the national debt. Believe me, we'll all notice.
Peter Ford, St. Petersburg
Five observations about the special election March 13
Early voters hurt process
This article should have included a sixth observation: the problem of early voting. It is evident that significant numbers of early voters cast their ballots in a knee-jerk decision that skews election results. In addition, I think a significant number of early voters would have cast their ballot differently as more was learned about the candidates through debates and news as election day approached.
This problem can be extended to include all elections in Pinellas County and elsewhere that allow early voting far in advance of actual election day. Worse yet, election campaigns exploit this early information gap to the detriment of the integrity of the voting process.
David White, Clearwater
The ad made a difference
David Jolly's late-arriving commercial with his mother and aunt defused the Alex Sink commercials that tried to show him as a threat to Social Security. Coming toward the end of the campaign, it had to be a major factor for his election day voting margin.
Tom Miller, Clearwater
Time for Sink to move on
This excellent article succinctly breaks down the congressional election for Bill Young's seat won by David Jolly. But I am beginning to think that the Democratic Party is becoming a bunch of crybabies. I mean, enough already. Alex Sink ran for governor and lost, and now has made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. House and lost. When is enough enough?
The article also points out the possibility of Jessica Ehrlich, who lost to Young in 2012 and who legitimately lives in Pinellas, eyeing the job. Politics is kind of like basketball: You get the ball, maybe miss a dozen or so shots but you keep shooting until you make a basket. I guess with unemployment remaining at high levels, elected office continues to be the direction to go.
My vote is, let's give Jolly a chance to show his mettle.
John Osterweil, Tampa
Overlooked or ignored in David Jolly's 48 percent win over Alex Sink's 47 percent is Libertarian Lucas Overby's just under 5 percent, which were de facto conservative votes. This means 53 percent of the votes cast could be considered to be conservative. Sink's 47 percent looks worse when analyzed in this perspective.
David P. Carter, Seminole
Big flood insurance rate hikes reversed March 14
Politics and deficits
It's great that the flood insurance rates were reversed. Now the question is: How do Republicans justify supporting federal subsidies for flood insurance, which will increase the deficit, while refusing to expand health care for approximately 1 million people in Florida, which the Congressional Budget Office has said will decrease the deficit?
Howard Taylor, St. Petersburg
State court throws out damage cap March 14
Too many lawsuits
This Florida Supreme Court decision reopens the "Florida Medical Lottery" by doing away with caps on "pain and suffering."
No one will argue that trying to define how much pain and suffering are worth is arbitrary at best. What the article failed to mention is that actual medical costs are covered and have never been reduced, and that plaintiffs' attorneys make a percentage, often 30 percent to 50 percent of awards, thus reducing what the plaintiff receives.
This will again open the floodgates for lawsuits to try to win over juries where there were adverse medical outcomes, based on healing and patients' overall health, rather than true medical malpractice. Look for malpractice premiums to rise and surgeons to stop doing high-risk procedures.
David Lubin, M.D., Tampa