Editor's note: Letters to the editor offer a significant contribution to the discussion of public policy and life in Tampa Bay. To recognize some of that work by our most engaged readers, the Times will select a letter of the month and the writers will be recognized at the end of the year. We will choose the finalists each month based on relevance on topical issues, persuasiveness and writing style. The writer's opinion does not need to match the editorial board's opinion on the issue to be nominated. But clarity of thinking, brevity and a sense of humor certainly helps.
Help us choose the letter of the month for March 2014 by reading through the three nominated letters and voting on the ballot at the bottom of the web page.
Enforce the law | Feb. 28, letter
A search for fairness
A few questions came to mind when I read this letter on undocumented workers:
• Can you imagine being unable to feed your family? Would you not go where you would have a chance to provide for them? U.S. employers who are most concerned with their bottom line actively seek cheap labor. Are those employers in no way responsible for the immigration situation?
• Can you imagine being deported and having your children separated from you? These immigrants came here in order to provide for their families. Before there were tight border controls, it was common for workers to send earnings back home and return to their families when the seasonal jobs were over; now they are forced to be permanently displaced and raise their families here.
• Can you imagine what it would be like if we didn't have any of these people in our workforce? Who would pick the food to put on our tables? Under the best of circumstances, these workers put in long days in the hot sun doing backbreaking work for poverty wages. We don't see unemployed Americans rushing to apply for these jobs.
We are no different from these immigrants. We all have the same yearnings and wishes for the well-being of our families. We have chosen to benefit from their services, therefore we need to give back to them. For the 11 million undocumented workers currently in our country, a path to citizenship — which would be a long and arduous process for them — provides the only fair resolution to this situation.
Anne Burnham, Tarpon Springs (March 5)
Trauma payday | March 10
Consumers get gouged
If a hurricane sweeps through our state and causes a major power outage, it's illegal for me to load my truck up with generators and sell them to people in need for a couple hundred more than they actually cost. That's considered price-gouging.
However, if I become injured in an accident and have to go to a trauma center, they can charge me 30 or 40 times what the actual cost should be and that's perfectly legal.
I guess this makes perfect sense to our leadership in Tallahassee.
David Bieniecki, New Port Richey (March 13)
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 (March 17)