Monday's letters: U.S. should look at Australian health care

Published July 15, 2012

U.S. House votes to repeal Obamacare | July 11

Look to health plans in Australia

With congressional Republicans voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and GOP governors feverishly searching for ways to block its implementation, attacks on economically beleaguered Europe have resumed as a popular way to demagogue on the campaign trail.

Republican chairman Reince Priebus recently stated that "Obamacare is Europe in the White House, (and since) Europe doesn't work in Europe, its not going to work here." Gov. Rick Scott has likened the ACA to Britain's universal health care system and indicated that the British are often denied coverage due to rationing. Such comparisons conveniently ignore other non-European countries, like Australia, that have successfully implemented universal health care.

The IMF recently predicted that Australia would be the best-performing major advanced economy in the world over the next two years. Their health care system, known as Medicare, is similar to our Medicare, but is available regardless of age. According to the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, it "is well accepted by all parts of society and all major political parties." The system allows Australians to supplement coverage by purchasing private health insurance and is financed, in part, by a 1 percent levy on higher-rate taxpayers without private health insurance. While not flawless, it provides all Australian citizens with free or subsidized access to most medical services.

Nonetheless, the United States manages to spend more on health care, per capita, than Australia, or any other country. Despite this additional spending, our population's health status is worse than Australia's, and approximately 30 million of our citizens are currently uninsured.

Not only does Australia spend less on health care and receive better treatment, but they are one of our greatest allies, share our paramount values and their economy is booming.

Jeffrey Lieser, Tampa

Romney's welcome at NAACP turns sour July 12

Courageous address

Mitt Romney had the courage to attend the NAACP conference and delivered a message aimed at improving on the poor jobs record and lack of educational reforms of the current administration, especially for African-Americans.

President Barack Obama chose to not attend the conference because he expects to get votes from 95 percent of those attending, despite his poor performance.

Robert Inslee, Dade City

Going backward

In his appearance before the NAACP, Mitt Romney unambiguously set out his true feelings about the Affordable Care Act. He called it "nonessential" and specifically identified it as the prime example of the regulations he intends to repeal.

Since elections have consequences, if Romney wins we can look forward to a return to the days of fixed maximums and pre-existing conditions and continued pandering to the health care lobbyists.

Thomas Ignatius Hayes, St. Petersburg

Watering rules still in force | July 12

Don't let up on water rules

The Swiftmud governing board should keep the current, once-per-week watering restrictions in place when it meets at the end of July, and I for one would like to see these restrictions put in place permanently for the whole state.

Once-a-week watering is easy to remember and would be easier to enforce. Permanent restrictions would encourage drought-tolerant landscaping and more use of rain barrels and other water-saving measures and go a long way toward helping to replenish the aquifer.

Lisa DePew, New Port Richey

U.S. reaches out to Laos, works to clean up bombs | July 12

Deadly legacy in Laos

I was heartened to read of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's historic visit to Laos and her recognition that the United States must do more to erase the most lasting and troubling legacy of the Vietnam War: America's little-known air raids over Laos, dropping thousands of tons of cluster bombs. While these bombings may have been of military value at the time, approximately one-third of the munitions failed to detonate and have killed over 20,000 Laotians since the end of the war. It is estimated that one-third of Laos is inundated with unexploded cluster bombs, rendering large swaths of land both dangerous and useless.

I was privileged to visit Southeast Asia this year and spent several days in Vientiane, Laos' sleepy capital. Sadly, one of the city's most well-regarded tourist attractions is a museum explaining the devastating role cluster bombs continue to play in Laos. Hearing stories and seeing photos of children suffering lifelong deformities was eye-opening.

While Clinton's visit was of immense value in raising awareness of this problem, America must do more. We currently contribute only $9 million annually to cluster bomb cleanup operations in Laos. Increased funding will not only serve our foreign policy objective of befriending Asian states, it will allow Laotians to live without fear of deadly munitions in their midst.

Jonathan DeSantis, Gulfport

Tampa Port Authority

For a better port, economy

The newly configured Tampa Port Authority Board of Commissioners, under the new leadership of Hoe Brown, is in the unique position of changing its vision and strategies to deliver much better results in economic growth in Hillsborough County and the Tampa Bay area. Will they?

With the recent resignation of the authority's executive director, and the kickoff of an executive search to find the best available replacement, the chairman and his Board of Commissioners should use this opportunity to change their vision and strategies to once again focus on working with the community to effectively market the entire port district in a way that can benefit all of the port industries and citizens of Hillsborough County.

Look no further than the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority. It is a perfect example of how a change in the board's vision and strategy, as well as a change to an effective executive director to execute that vision, can have impressive benefits.

Let's hope that the new Port Authority chairman will guide the board to adopting a vision and strategy that is consistent with its purpose, and that it will accept the standing offers to re-engage with the port community to effectively collaborate on remarketing the port. And that it seeks a new executive director who is the absolute best available.

Arthur R. Savage, president, A.R. Savage & Son, Tampa