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  1. Letters to the Editor

Monday's letters: Make your voice heard on Medicare


Register your opinion of program

This month, the 392,700 Medicare beneficiaries in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area should pay attention to their mailboxes for a chance to make their voice heard on a critical topic — their health care.

If you have Medicare coverage, you may receive the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, or CAHPS, survey in the coming weeks, giving you an opportunity to rate your satisfaction with your Medicare health insurance and doctors. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services conducts this annual survey to hear directly from select beneficiaries about the quality of Medicare health plans and care providers.

Through the survey, you can become part of our nation's efforts to help improve our health care system. Regrettably, many of the selected don't respond — in 2012, only 45 percent of selected Medicare beneficiaries responded to the Medicare CAHPS survey. If you are chosen to receive the survey this year, please take the time to provide your feedback before the May 29 deadline.

Both the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Medicare insurance providers want to make sure you are receiving the highest quality medical care from doctors you trust. The survey is one of the tools used to help achieve this goal. Survey responses help the government and insurers identify ways to better serve beneficiaries and improve the quality of your health care experience.

Kathy Winans, regional vice president, UnitedHealthcare, Tampa

Rubio's stale school plan Feb. 24, Robyn Blumner

Stop politicizing education

Florida offers a powerful lesson in whether private school options can help poor schoolchildren, but the Tampa Bay Times seems uninterested in what these students are telling us.

Robyn Blumner instead attacks a federal scholarship plan by Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio along partisan lines, cheapening the debate by calling it "craven" and "money laundering." It is simply a learning option that economically disadvantaged students wouldn't otherwise have, and Florida shows it can help.

Two-thirds of the 50,000 low-income students on the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship are black or Hispanic. They were the lowest performers in the public schools they left behind and are now making the same academic gains as students of all income levels nationally. Just as encouraging, the public schools most impacted by the scholarship are experiencing higher learning gains.

These results don't seem to matter because Blumner sees a Republican conspiracy. Never mind that nearly half the Democrats in Florida's Legislature support a scholarship, including a majority of the Black Caucus. Never mind those of us who work with children for whom these opportunities can make the difference between a diploma or a jail cell. Never mind that the progressive Black Alliance for Educational Options support the bill.

Rubio will have to defend his plan, but to cast these options as contrary to public education is to treat the needs of underprivileged students as though they are beside the point. The parents who choose these scholarships are not trying to make a political statement; they just want their children to succeed. Let's not politicize the future of our children.

Manuel L. Sykes, president, NAACP St. Petersburg

Trade talks

Corporate giveaways

This week, U.S. negotiators will be working behind closed doors in Singapore on a massive agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It includes 11 countries, but would be open for others, even China, to join later.

It's been branded as a trade agreement, but only five of its 29 chapters have anything to do with trade. The rest comprise a corporate wish list establishing incentives to offshore jobs, imposing limits on regulation of banks, threatening Internet freedom and even banning "buy American" procurement preferences that reinvest our tax dollars locally to create jobs here. These new rules would be enforced through international tribunals empowered to impose trade sanctions and fines.

President Barack Obama has called for completion of the TPP by October, yet after three years of negotiations, the public and Congress know little about what U.S. negotiators are proposing in our names. I would appreciate coverage of TPP in our paper.

J. Darras Dubich, Dunedin


Over the line

The picture of the so-called "spring breakers" in the Weekend section is crude, lewd and rude. It goes beyond coarse and crass. What on earth was our newspaper thinking? Young people, some eight and younger, read the Weekend section. I can't remember seeing a photo like that in my almost 40 years of reading your paper.

Then we are invited to see it online. No thanks. The words are enough, believe me. Have you no limits?

Lilyan Dayton, New Port Richey

U.S. expands assistance to Syrian rebels Feb. 28

The fog of war

As we watch with dismay the fighting in Syria, it is interesting that Sen. Marco Rubio says we should arm the rebels who are the "moderates." In the confusion of a foreign civil war, how do we identify who they are? Will future comments from Rubio help move this discussion forward?

Robert Tarnay, Palmetto

Lessons unlearned

Here we go again. When will they ever learn?

In Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, it usually begins with "aid" and "training forces," then mercenaries "to protect our troops," then more of the same, then more troops and supplies.

Then killing people, ours and theirs, and destroying the land.

Who profits from all this? Certainly not the American people at large, nor the families of dead veterans, not the wounded veterans who struggle for their benefits.

Mortimer Brown, Lutz