1. Archive


The 1995 movie The American President showed a conversation between the president, played by Michael Douglas, and his aides. One adviser stated that Americans wanted leadership. "They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they find there's no water, they'll drink the sand." The president responded, "People don't drink the sand because they're thirsty. They drink it because they don't know the difference."

Our elected officials must think the American public doesn't know the difference. They step up to the microphone and announce that they are going to give up or donate their paychecks until the shutdown is over, thinking that their "gesture" will make people feel as though Capitol Hill is suffering right along with them.

They think we don't all know that they are merely creating another tax writeoff for themselves while they still collect income from book deals, incentives from big business, and "thank yous" for speaking engagements. Their "sacrifice" is the equivalent of a person giving a stranger a $20 bill, knowing there are still hundreds of thousands of dollars in his checking account. It's pretty lip service, but not worth the air it takes to speak it.

Gail Hartmaier, Tampa

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Medicare Advantage

Seniors should check plans

When facing a disease as serious and complex as cancer, patients need access to the highest level of care and latest treatments.

Moffitt Cancer Center, the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center based in Florida, offers patients high-quality, cost-effective care across the state and beyond.

Patients treated at Moffitt have significantly better survival rates than the national average for many types of cancers, according to data from the National Cancer Data Base and Moffitt's Cancer Registry.

At Moffitt, our patients come first, and we want them to have access to the best care possible. That's why we are urging seniors to check their Medicare Advantage plans now to see if their benefits or coverage have changed.

For example, UnitedHealthcare's Medicare Advantage plans - three products sold under the name AARP MedicareComplete - will no longer include Moffitt in network beginning Jan. 1. That means patients who remain with these plans will pay higher out-of-pocket costs for care at Moffitt.

Now is the time for seniors to review their policies and make a change if necessary. During the Medicare open enrollment period, Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, seniors can switch plans without penalty.

The situation with UnitedHealthcare and Moffitt is unfortunate but not unique. It is indicative of the changing health care landscape and the financial pressures insurers and providers face. More than ever, patients need to research their options and make the best health care decisions for them.

Selecting a plan with an in-network NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center means more accurate diagnoses, shorter treatment times, reduced hospital stays, and improved quality of life during and after treatments. Most importantly, it means better outcomes and the best chance for beating cancer.

Alan List, M.D., president and CEO, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa

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Too many looking for a handout Oct. 8, letter

Making care affordable

Like the letter writer, I grew up with medical benefits, worked for 40 years and always had health insurance for my family. My husband and I have the "work ethic and self-discipline" the writer speaks of, and we provide for ourselves. I, too, used to see people with no jobs or insurance as having "shortcomings" and having "their hand out waiting for someone else to pay."

That's what I used to see. But my eyes have been opened.

Now, I see that health care in this country is very expensive and exists only for a select few. I see that the only way anyone can afford it is to have a well-paying job, or a job with benefits, or to be or have been in the military, or to have a spouse with a well-paying job or benefits.

I see the thousands of people who were laid off from their jobs and haven't been able to find employment. Do these people have "shortcomings" because they have lost their income and benefits and can't afford health insurance? I see the college graduates who can't find jobs. Do they have "shortcomings" and are they looking for handouts?

I see the thousands of people we interact with on a regular basis who receive low pay and no benefits - our fellow citizens who serve at the restaurant, the fast-food place, the department store, the hotel, the hair salon, the convenience store, the nursing home; or who work long hours at their own business. Those, in short, who take any one of the vast majority of jobs that are to be had in this nation. Are these people not "providing for themselves" because they can't afford to pay the huge premiums needed for ordinary health care?

I see the Affordable Care Act as being just that - an attempt to make health care "affordable" to most Americans. Yes, some people don't provide for themselves and "have their hands out" as the letter writer believes, but I see that most people in this nation are working exhaustively just to make ends meet. Health care needs to be affordable to all of our fellow Americans.

Susan E. Whitaker, Tampa

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Taliban renews threat against teen - Oct. 9

Support education act

It has been a year since Malala Yousafzai angered the Taliban with her courageous pleas for girls to be educated in Pakistan. Her passionate quest for an education led to a gunman shooting her on a school bus. As Malala recovered, an important and practical piece of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Education for All Act, has been overlooked amid more urgent concerns. The bill would assist children in attaining what is most precious to them, an education.

Morally, it would break cycles of poverty globally by increasing access to quality schools and teachers for all children. Economically, it uses the money we appropriate wisely to foster growth. Ultimately, the bill promotes U.S. national security.

In the United States, it is difficult to imagine places where education is scarce, and yet nearly 1 billion people worldwide are so illiterate they cannot even sign their own names. Globally, 57 million primary school-aged children are still not in school, and many more children who are in school are failing to acquire even basic reading, writing and numeracy skills.

It is also difficult to imagine children so earnest for learning that they make great sacrifices to do so, as Malala did. She continues her pleas for peace and education for every child. Thank you to legislators such as Rep. Kathy Castor for supporting the Education for All Act. The other bay area congressmen need to support this vital bill.

Barbara Drake, Tampa

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Time to get government up, running Oct. 8, commentary

The benefits are real

Rep. Dennis Ross castigates Obamacare for its failures, but he ignores those who are delighted that their children are covered up to age 26, that pregnancy is not an illness, that pre-existing conditions don't matter, and that the premiums are within reach of many.

Ross earns $177,000 a year as a congressman and is eligible for the federal employees' health program. He should put himself in the shoes of the many Floridians who earn much less and haven't been able to get insurance in the past or who were bankrupted by medical costs.

Elizabeth Corwin, Tampa

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Genetically modified foods

Marching for health

Several months ago, citizens in Pinellas County and across the country marched to call attention to the dangers of genetically modified foods. Although over 300 of us carried signs and made noise in the heart of St. Petersburg, the Times did not report on our presence or our concerns.

We will march again today, as we feel strongly about this vital matter. I believe, based on extensive research, that our health is endangered by GMOs (genetically modified organisms), which are not even labeled on packaging for our consideration of choices.

I ask that people research for themselves our concerns. Please fulfill your civic and moral mandate to act upon your conscience. We need your involvement to effectively address this injustice.

Douglas Bonar, St. Petersburg

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Veterans treated to tour of capital Oct. 9

Exceptional treatment

The heartwarming story about local veterans visiting the World War II Memorial in Washington glosses over the fact that the memorial had been closed due to the government shutdown. The administration made an exception for the veterans because it feared the terrible optics of denying access to those honored by the memorial.

While this accommodation may have been expedient, it was unwise. If the administration wants to inflict maximum pain with its petty and arbitrary closure of federal parks and monuments, it should stand firmly by its decisions and apply the rules to everyone. Our parks and memorials belong to all of us equally. Ordering park rangers to selectively enforce the rules violates our rock-bottom principle of equal protection under the law.

Did these vets fight for a government "of (certain) people, by (certain) people, for (certain) people"? I think not.

Eric Burns, Palm Harbor