Health funding in hands of moderates | April 21
A better approach on health care
One of the most important decisions the Florida Legislature will make this year will be how to provide health care to those Floridians who are not covered by either Medicaid or a private health plan. The Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate are both advancing plans that take dramatically different approaches to accomplishing this goal.
The current House plan would provide financial assistance to an estimated 115,000 Floridians so they can purchase health coverage. The $2,000 of yearly assistance is hardly a sufficient amount to purchase meaningful health coverage in the private market (if coverage for that amount can even be found). Additionally, this plan will not provide assistance to most single adults without children or some other dependent. The proposed deductible of $2,500 per individual (or $7,500 per family) is an unrealistic amount of money an individual or family at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level to pay out before receiving any benefits of whatever coverage they may been able to purchase. The bottom line: The Florida House plan is inadequate, unaffordable and unacceptable.
I and some of my colleagues are advocating an alternative to the proposal many in House leadership are pushing. This proposal will create the Healthy Florida program, which is based on the highly successful Healthy Kids program already in operation. The Healthy Florida program will require the federal government to pick up the tab for the first three years with money that Florida has already paid to Washington through taxes. The House plan does not recoup those dollars. Of equal importance is the fact that under this proposal both families and individuals will be able to purchase health coverage. The federal poverty level threshold will be 133 percent, which means that more people will be eligible to apply. It is estimated that approximately 1.1 million Floridians may qualify for coverage under this proposal, a large number of which are considered the uninsured working poor. Program participants will contribute towards the program by paying co-pays rather than having to meet the huge deductible required by the House plan.
The time has come for the Florida Legislature to take responsible action to provide health coverage for those most in need. The choice is not whether this coverage should be provided or not, but rather which plan being proposed provides more Floridians the most affordable health care possible. It is evident that the House plan severely limits not only the number of potential enrollees, but also places huge obstacles to accessing that care. The plan I advocate will provide meaningful coverage for nearly 10 times the number of Floridians at the same time create an estimated 120,000 new jobs. The economic health of our state, and nation, hinges upon the health of its citizens. The plan I support will help provide a way for as many uninsured Floridians as possible to get and stay healthy.
State Rep. Mike Fasano, District 36, New Port Richey
Lawsuit targets teacher ratings | April 17
According to this article, teachers are being evaluated based on, among several factors, test scores of students they don't teach.
Senate President Don Gaetz was quoted as saying, "So the teachers' union filed a lawsuit saying they don't want to be evaluated based on student performance? I'm shocked. Shocked I say." The report went on to say that he was being facetious. I saw it as unprofessional and dismissive, hardly a tone conducive to civilized discourse on the issue. Therein lies the problem.
No reasonable person thinks it is valid to assess job performance on factors unrelated to their actual performance. Should a doctor's rating be based on the health outcomes of patients he or she never saw? Should Gaetz's constituents evaluate his performance based on that of Gov. Rick Scott or President Barack Obama? No, and the paper said that at least he agreed on that point.
If he does agree that teachers shouldn't be evaluated on students they never see, then he must concede that there are flaws in the present teacher evaluation system. So why the derision? His contempt, along with the rush-to-market push of a flawed evaluation system, serve as evidence of what many believe is a war on public education being engaged by Florida's Legislature.
Evaluate legislators on that.
Ari FitzGerald, Tampa
How soon they forget | April 19, editorial
No rights infringed
Where does the Constitution declare that the Second Amendment was designed to protect law-abiding citizens from the horror of having to fill out a form? The reality of the decision by (mostly) Republican senators to vote against a background check for online gun sales was a vote to protect the right of criminals and the mentally ill to purchase weapons for killing.
No law-abiding citizen would have been prevented from buying a gun. The only infringement upon Second Amendment rights for the good guys was the apparently intolerable requirement to fill out a form.
Martin Peters, Tarpon Springs
Taking the plunge to the end of the Earth April 14
Icebergs and adventures
I can't resist adding a personal footnote to Bob Jenkins' story on his visit to Antarctica. Jenkins had no real excitement to report; on my first visit to the continent in 1999, I did: Our ship, the Hanseatic, was crippled by an iceberg.
We'd anchored in Paradise Bay so that the hardier among us — my wife Diane and I included — could board some inflatable Zodiac boats to explore a minefield of icebergs. We were well out of the Hanseatic's view when, suddenly, from our pilot's little radio came: "All Zodiacs return to the ship immediately!"
We returned — to loosely controlled panic. "We're sinking!" one woman on deck screamed repeatedly. "We've hit an iceberg!" others offered.
We weren't sinking, but ship's divers did find that we'd either swung on our anchor and hit an iceberg or an iceberg had floated into the Hanseatic. End result: The force was great enough to cripple one of the ship's two propeller shafts. But we still could limp.
And that we did — for four days — heading back to Ushuaia, Argentina. Across treacherous Drake's Passage in near gale-force winds. On one propeller. And with all the ship's passageways lined with seasickness bags.
Philip Harsham, St. Petersburg