Saturday's letters: Help animals, not egos

Published Nov. 15, 2013

The recent articles about the difficulties at Hillsborough County Animal Services bring to light the apparent power struggle between the old guard and the new — a struggle that irresponsibly focuses on human egos and not animal welfare.

The shelter, under a new director, is attempting to change from the old model of kill-to-control population to the more humane no-kill or low-kill model. Animal advocates and others balk at this cultural shift. But what I find curious is that the so-called animal advocates who want to run shelter director Ian Hallett out of town seem to have forgotten what an animal shelter should be: a place of temporary refuge, not a killing factory to clear the streets of homeless cats and dogs.

Realistically, the shelter's goal of becoming no-kill may be a long way off, and Hallett may not be the best person to see it through; however, it is still a goal that should be embraced by a progressive, compassionate community, animal advocates included. We need to set our egos aside and focus on the welfare of our four-legged friends. Only then can we truly call ourselves "advocates."

Deborah Van Pelt, Tampa

Delay insurance sales tax | Nov. 12, letter

Sneak attack on reform

I found Michael Gallagher's letter recommending repeal of the Affordable Care Act's premium sales tax to be one-sided and misleading. Gallagher, AvMed's CEO, is referring to a new tax that is part of the ACA. The term "sales tax" may be a bit of a misnomer, in that it is imposed on the health care industry, which will then pass this cost on to the buyers. Gallagher estimates the 10-year cost to Floridians to be between $2,115 for insured programs to $4,181 for Medicare participants. He implies that eliminating this tax will benefit Floridians. But will it?

The answer may be found in understanding why this tax is an integral part of the ACA. The revenue from this tax is used to make health care insurance affordable to those who currently can't get it. Basically, the tax is used to fund premium subsidies and certain tax credits. Without this revenue, premiums for ACA coverage increase and the economics of making premiums affordable falls apart.

So this recommendation is, in reality, just another initiative to kill the law. What Gallagher omits is the economic benefit to all Floridians once the ACA, including this tax, is implemented. Florida's citizens will not longer have to support emergency room and other state-supplied health services for our uninsured. Then, there is the increased productivity arising from workers who will be able to access preventive medicine for the first time.

As an actuary, I compliment Gallagher on an imaginative approach to dismantling ACA by removing an essential, but not obvious, funding element. His letter reflects his basic opposition to ACA that is well documented in numerous YouTube videos.

Gregory Matthews, St. Petersburg

Look to the insurers

Much attention is rightly being paid to the thousands who are receiving notices of cancellation of their health insurance policies. The dislocation being caused in all these lives is considerable and is very concerning. However, all the blame seems to be directed to President Barack Obama. And in the sense of Harry Truman's dictum, "The buck stops here," this is understandable.

But this is a much more complex problem, and is deserving of much broader analysis than has generally occurred in the media. Largely unexplored is the role of the health insurance companies in contributing to, if not actually creating, much of this crisis. Being able to terminate policies that are not fully compliant with the Affordable Care Act may serve as a ready excuse for ending policies that are less profitable, and forcing people into more costly, higher-profit policies, often with different and perhaps lower-cost providers — all under the cover of, "It's because of the ACA requirements."

Left unexplored is the question of whether existing policies could have been made ACA-compliant without being discontinued, perhaps with much more modest cost increases.

When health care reform was being debated legislatively, there were many who called for a "single-payer plan" or, as a fallback option, a "public option." Either of these would have avoided or enabled solutions to most of the problems we see now with these policy cancellations. The Obama administration and the Senate Finance Committee chose to side with the health insurance industry and leave their central role intact. Is this, at least in part, an instance of "No good deed goes unpunished"?

Edward H. Stein, Tampa

Not the best option

The weak start of this new health care program shows that this Republican plan was not the best option. The Democrats should have held out for single payer through expanding Medicare.

At least those of us within 10 years of qualifying for the government-run health care should have had the option of buying in to Medicare. I'd rather pay the fine than give an insurance company a nickel of my money.

Brian Valsavage, St. Petersburg

A line in the sand | Nov. 10

Mayor is the newcomer

I noticed that Anna Maria Island's mayor, SueLynn, moved to the area in the 1990s. As such, she is a newcomer compared to many families in the Tampa Bay area who go back generations.

Now this mayor and those of her ilk want to restrict use of public beaches on the island and are discussing various ways to implement those restrictions.

How would she have liked it if long-standing Floridians had tried to restrict her use of public beaches and facilities a few years ago? Perhaps she would have felt unwelcome and remained in Chicago.

The kinds of discussions going on in Anna Maria are elitist and do create class distinctions, despite what the mayor thinks. As such, they are positively classless.

Terry Ward, St. Petersburg

Just another day in paradise

The residents of Anna Maria Island seem to think that by charging new tolls, charging for parking and treating "outsiders" as if they don't belong they will better their idyllic way of life. I beg to disagree.

For folks who want to live in such a beautiful place and nurture their independent spirit, I caution them when they begin to ask for more "government" regulation on their visitors.

As a professional musician who makes a weekly 120-mile round-trip drive to entertain out on that pristine beach, I see the peace and tranquility that the environment brings out in just about everyone. I realize that things out there may not be "the same" as when you moved there. Nothing ever remains completely the same.

"Outsiders" help fund your quaint local businesses and keep Anna Maria one of the few places left that aren't filled with high-rise hotels and chain restaurants. If someone parks on your lawn or defiles your property, call your local police. Other than that, take a long deep breath, take a stroll on that incredible beach and thank your lucky stars. You've won a life lottery by just being there. Cherish that.

Mark Skey, Palm Harbor

Bishops take on priorities of pope | Nov. 12

Look to inequality at home

This article on the Roman Catholic bishops' meeting in Baltimore was very upsetting. These men have created a very dire situation for the church in the United States by their handling of the pedophile crisis and fight against women's health care rights. Over 30 million people have left the church in the United States. Pope Francis has called for Roman Catholics throughout the world to stand up for justice and in solidarity with those in need — "the preferential option for the poor."

The United States has more than 11 million people unemployed. We have more than 100,000 homeless veterans, 47 million people on food stamps, and 44 million without health insurance. More than 1.6 million children are homeless.

The bishops, not addressing the injustice and economic inequality in America, say they will instead "take up the cause of Christians who are persecuted and killed for their faith in other countries."

For me this is hypocrisy when children and families are homeless and are starving all across America. They are not taking on the pope's priorities "for the poor." They are running away from their spiritual responsibility as followers of Jesus and as priests and pastors in our own country.

Katy Zatsick, Sun City Center

That book on Benghazi | Nov. 10

If it's wrong, why publish?

CBS has apologized, twice. The publisher of The Embassy House has suspended sales because no one knows which end is up, much less what is a true and accurate account. And yet the Times thinks it a good idea for us "to read some of the account." Will the Times tell us which parts are true and which pure fiction? When did the Times become an agent of Fox News?

David Alfonso, Largo