Medicare health services
Protect home care for seniors
Last year, as part of its ongoing effort to reduce Medicare fraud and generate program savings, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched a new regulatory requirement known as Pre-Claim Review for home health services. Five states were initially selected to try out the program, including Florida. The program is underway in Illinois and is set to begin in Florida on April 1.
Under Pre-Claim Review, a third-party contractor is required to decide whether doctor-prescribed home health care is "medically necessary" before Medicare will approve payment for a patient's care. Though originally intended to ensure that American tax dollars were put to good use, the program's rollout has been marred with problems.
Not only has Pre-Claim Review seemingly done nothing to address fraud, it has led to massive delays in home health care and a slew of improper denials that interfere in the delivery of timely care for older Americans. Since implemented in other parts of the country, technical failures and extra paperwork have taken clinicians away from patients to fulfill administrative requirements. Doctors, who are best equipped to make health care decisions, saw their own prescriptions overridden by third-party bureaucrats who have never had contact with their patients.
Nearly 350,000 Floridians depend on Medicare home health each year. It is a safe and effective means for patients to recover from illness and injury in the comfort of their own homes. It's also highly cost-effective compared to care provided in the hospital or skilled nursing setting, underscoring why Medicare should be expanding access to home health, not restricting it.
As a representative of Florida's home health agencies, I strongly urge our federal lawmakers to act immediately to protect seniors' home health care by asking Medicare to stop this flawed program from being implemented across our state.
Kyle Simon, Tampa
The writer is director of government affairs and communications for the Home Care Association of Florida.
White House spins at whirlwind pace | Feb. 3
Beware religious influence
When President Donald Trump touts free speech for churches, do you want a local mega-church or some cult controlling your local government? What will this mean for non-Christians, or Christians of the "wrong" church?
It is imperative that we keep state and church separate, as advocated by our founding fathers. After all, they lived under a state church and knew what it meant.
While modern Christianity is not as repressive as other religions, what happens if the government is taken over by extremists who can control your entire life? You may not like many of the latest social policies, but individuals are not forced to live by them. However, that may not be true when specific a religion controls government and implements its social policies (no divorce, no education or equal opportunity for females, etc.). This is a dangerous path and it's imperative we stop it now.
Judy Adkins, Tampa
Conservative pick sets up showdown | Feb. 1
Corporations as people
Judge Neil Gorsuch in the Hobby Lobby case determined that a business is a person. I don't understand that ruling. Hopefully this question will get answered. A health corporation defrauds Medicare out of a billion dollars, gets fined $100 million, no one goes to jail and the CEO gets a golden parachute of $100 million. I on the other hand am a doctor and I defraud Medicare out of million dollars. Do I get a 10 percent fine, or probation, or am I going to jail? My sense is I get all three.
So where is justice under the law? Please, Judge Gorsuch, explain this. I'm just a regular retired guy looking for a simple answer.
Joe Jones, New Port Richey
Trump: Putin is not lone 'killer' | Feb. 6
Insult to U.S. military
Donald Trump, during his primary campaign, scorned Sen. John McCain as "no hero" because McCain had been captured in Vietnam. Now he has gone so far as to dismiss our brave service members, who have fought for 15 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, as "killers," morally equivalent to the brutal and criminal Vladimir Putin of Russia. In an interview with Bill O'Reilly, Trump, who was again defending Putin, said: "We've got a lot of killers. What do you think ? You think our country's so innocent?" Then Trump referenced the war in Iraq.
I have taught ROTC students at the University of Tampa for 40 years. They have always been among the most disciplined, polite and intelligent students I have had in my classrooms. The same is true of the enlisted men and women I taught for eight years at MacDill Air Force Base.
Sixty thousand brave young men and women in the U.S. military have been wounded or died during our conflicts in the Middle East. But to our new president they are "killers" on par with the disgraceful Putin and his thugs. Our president needs to apologize to our military families for his thoughtless and stupid remarks.
Gary Luter, Tampa
Keep cigars in Cigar City | Feb. 6, commentary
It would be a sad day for many in the Tampa Bay area if the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. were to fail because of federal regulations. Not included in Dominic Calabro's column is the philanthropic work done by the Newman family. They have been staunch supporters of education both here and in the Dominican Republic for decades. Their support of Southeastern Guide Dogs is legendary.
Regulations that injure American businesses are counterproductive. The Newmans have always discouraged underage smoking. Their market is adults. Bringing in Cuban cigars free of regulatory onus while imposing financial burdens on local businesses flies in the face of our present political trend of keeping jobs and companies in America.
Bruce LeBaron, St. Petersburg