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 November by reading through the three nominated letters and voting on the ballot at the bottom of the web page.
Affordable Care Act
Universal care on horizon
The conservative media have joyously proclaimed that the double-digit health insurance rate increases many Obamacare policyholders are facing mark the beginning of the end for the law. With apparent glee, some pundits have proclaimed that these increases are evidence of the law's failure and flaws in "liberal" policy. Many use these premium increases to reinvigorate the call to repeal the law.
The Obamacare health insurance exchanges are nothing more than a marketplace for purchasing health insurance with the stipulation that insurers cannot deny applicants and must cover essential health benefits. What these premium increases actually represent is that for-profit health insurance systems are unsustainable unless the insurers have the ability to deny coverage to those who need care and can restrict access to necessary care for policyholders.
Contrary to the assertions of those opposing Obamacare, the repeal of the law would primarily result in a return to the days when insurers turned away applicants, denied coverage for needed care and terminated policies rather than provide care.
What these premium increases actually represent is evidence that the United States must join other industrialized nations and provide universal health care for its citizens.
My experience has been that a growing number of Americans now see universal health care in our nation as an inevitable goal. The demise of the health insurance exchanges within Obamacare moves us closer to that goal. It would seem to me that conservatives should be mourning this news instead of rejoicing in it.
Edward Briggs, St. Petersburg
A call for civility, progress
Sunday there was a knock on my door. I opened it to see what looked like a nice man, casual and smiling, just a regular guy. He could have been one of my neighbors, but I don't know many neighbors and I did not take the time to ask. He carried a clipboard and asked, "Are you Rick Ceaser?"
Right away I noticed his baseball cap with the words "Make America Great Again" emblazoned across the front. "Yes, I am Rick Ceaser," I replied and added, "And I am not voting for Donald Trump. Now get off my porch!" I slammed the door and watched him hurry, almost run, down my front walk to the sidewalk. I was proud of myself and bragged about my quick reaction for the rest of the day to all who would listen.
On Monday, I was ashamed of myself. I woke up in the night thinking about that guy. I was acting on the divisiveness that this miserable election plunged the country into. That poor guy was working hard to elect the candidate of his choice, and I showed him no respect.
Shame on me. I want to apologize to him and all the people of any party who worked for their candidates and gave of their time.
With the election over, I do want to unify the country and move ahead and keep America the great country that I know and love.
Rick Ceaser, St. Petersburg
Work hard, achieve dreams
I am an immigrant. I moved to the United States over 30 years ago when I was 5. I've been here so long that I don't even remember my first language. English, my second language, is now my only language. From when I arrived and even after all these years, some people don't see me as American.
Since first grade, people bullied me because I looked and sounded different. I met my best friend to this day when I was 8 years old. He sat behind me in class and one day I gave him a slap bracelet for "never making fun of me," and we've been best friends ever since. He marched to the beat of his own drummer and didn't participate in the bullying.
I never remember anything being easy for my family. We didn't have much. No car, no A/C in the summer, and a roof that leaked every time it rained. The only promise made was the harder you work, the more you can achieve. You can make your dreams come true if you're willing to work for it; you can be anything you want to be. This is my America.
When I was 16, I was diagnosed with cancer. I went through over a year of chemo and radiation. When I entered remission and became an adult, I was surprised to find that my insurance wouldn't cover my cancer checkups. Scans that I needed to make sure it was gone cost thousands but were not covered due to a pre-existing condition. Worse, if the cancer ever returned, my insurance wouldn't help with the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs for these treatments. Then my America changed. She told me that she wouldn't let me down if I got sick again; she'd have my back if I wanted to fight.
My dad died shortly after my 18th birthday and I wasn't able to pursue college. My brother was 15 and my sister was 4. I wasn't sure what to do and almost gave up. I wasn't ready to be an adult or help support a family. Then I remembered America's promise. If I couldn't go to school, I'd work multiple jobs, 90-plus hours a week. I still remember falling asleep after 15-hour shifts, dreaming I could be anything I wanted to be. I worked as hard as I could at every opportunity and job, and kept setting higher goals.
In another country, I could not aspire to where I am today. Racism and inequality exist everywhere, but in America the best friend you didn't know you had may be sitting right behind you, already watching your back. I owe everything I am today to the opportunities America gave me, for taking a chance on me when I literally had nothing, little hope and all the odds against me. I'm proud to be a U.S. citizen.
Rabindranath Sawh, Tampa