As a medical professional responsible for many dialysis clinics, I have oversight for some of the sickest and most complex patients in Florida. My patients have kidney failure and depend on dialysis three times each week to stay alive. Most people on dialysis, regardless of age, have Medicare.
In early July, Medicare proposed "fiscal cliff" budget cuts on dialysis providers. The cuts are demoralizing and disconcerting. I'm worried they will jeopardize patient care and cause closures. Dialysis and its life-sustaining nature make this budget issue unique, especially in Florida where more than 32,000 residents suffer from kidney failure.
For clinics with large Medicare populations, the impact would negatively affect people who have kidney failure now and those who develop it later. We're all at risk. In Florida, kidney disease, which disproportionately impacts aging and ethnic populations, has increased 22 percent since 2005. Hypertension and diabetes are the top causes of this escalating disease.
In fiscally challenging times, we try to do more with less. Dialysis professionals like me have worked hard to improve health outcomes. In 2011 we adopted a new cost-effective payment system. Our quality service results are a model for others in health care. Yet this progress could be threatened by fiscal cliff Medicare budgeting.
Our patients have multiple health issues. Medicare barely covers the cost of complex dialysis care now, and new cuts would be devastating. Do we want critically ill individuals to accept reduced care or travel longer distances for life-saving dialysis?
A bipartisan group of lawmakers including Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, have urged Medicare officials to avoid "gutting" life-saving dialysis services. If you share this sentiment, please call your U.S. representative and ask them to protect our friends and loved ones who struggle with kidney failure.
Chris Fonvielle, Fresenius Medical Care, Gainesville
Tampa Bay Rays
Lack of support is sad
After having just watched another sterling Rays performance, I cannot hide my embarrassment any longer. My wife and I live in Titusville (near the Kennedy Space Center) and make the three-hour drive to see Rays games about 10 times a year. Added with the obvious fuel costs are sometimes hotel costs as well.
I am disgusted every time I turn on a televised game and see an almost empty stadium watching this team. Obviously there are die-hards who show up and root for this team; the rest of you who live locally should be ashamed of yourselves. You have a team that since 2008 has basically been a David beating Goliath situation. There is no team in the history of the league that has accomplished what the Rays, given their salary structure and flood of great players taking monster contracts for bigger teams through the years.
You have a manager in Joe Maddon who should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame tomorrow for what he has accomplished during his tenure here. The Rays total team salary this year is 28th out of 30 teams. To put that in perspective, the Yankees are paying Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson $64 million this year, whereas the entire Rays team is due $57 million.
I know the Trop is a pain to get to, find parking, etc. All I ask is that people who live in the bay area realize the amazing gift that plays in your backyard 81 times a year, and go out and support them. I know I will be making the long drive there on I-4, hopefully through another long playoff run!
Eric Bergman, Titusville
'I can't live like this. No fun' | July 10
Redemption in suffering
I find disturbing the rationale reported in this article for removing a ventilator.
Life is worth more than "fun." Life is priceless, and should not have a price tag of "fun" attached. Fun should not be the determining criteria for life or death.
There is suffering involved in being paralyzed. This is a life-changing event that apparently even shortens one life. But suffering has a redemptive quality. Suffering can improve a person's outlook and spirituality. Suffering can be used as a tool to improve the quality of one's life.
Christopher Martinez, St. Petersburg
Port official ran squalid rentals | July 10
The illegal trailer park where Republican power broker William "Hoe" Brown packed people into bug-infested mobile homes is literally around the corner from an old public housing project, Riverview Terrace, which was torn down in 2003 and rebuilt as mixed-income housing. The thriving new Oaks at Riverview was financed through private investment and $20 million of taxpayers' money.
Redevelopments like these are achieving their purpose. You tear down old federally supported slum projects — incubators for entrenched poverty, disillusionment and crime — and replace them with lower-density mixed-income communities, where the old-fashioned virtues of neighborhood role models can make a difference.
You'd think a public-spirited person like Hoe Brown would support this neighborhood regeneration instead of undermining it with his own illegal slum.
Jim Harper, Tampa
Throw light on IRS, 'scandal' evaporates July 9, Daniel Ruth column
Dodging the blame
Daniel Ruth tries to reduce concerns about government overreach in the IRS case to the level of an "oopsie-whoopsie." Using the same tactic as with Benghazi — having lower-level employees take the blame — he then proceeds to denigrate Rep. Darrell Issa's "browbeating" House Oversight Committee as overly aggressive. Apparently he has forgotten the previous chairman Henry Waxman's penchant for investigating totally innocuous occurrences.
We are asked to empathize with Lois Lerner, the obviously contemptuous and arrogant civil servant with a history of heavy-handed administration. The poor woman had to find a way to cut through the flood of applications for tax-exempt status. Therefore, it "made sense to create a list of key words to identify a potentially hinky agency." Ruth admits the policy was "ham-handed but does not rise to the level of scandal."
In other words, there is nothing to see here. Move on. Benghazi, reporter spying, NSA spying and the IRS. You can't blame any of this on the Obama administration. Don't forget to order more Kool-Aid, Dan.
Philip Hanson, Wesley Chapel
Bank's tight grip on cash is ill-advised July 9, John Romano column
I think the way Wells Fargo is treating Ronald Yaffe is despicable. My complaint with Wells Fargo is a loan modification that was turned down basically for the same reason — "new guidelines they follow now."
When Wells Fargo needed help, the American people bailed them out. Now when the shoe is on the other foot, they conveniently create "new guidelines" so they can keep all the billions they now are making. I think that is a very cynical and despicable way to treat their customers.
Nick Holutiak, Hudson
What is up with the stench on Bayshore Boulevard and what is the city of Tampa doing about it? By the smell of it, as well as the look of it, nothing. This is a chronic problem that has gotten worse over the last couple of years. The smell is not only disgusting, but embarrassing to the city. I recently read about it on Trip Advisor.com, where a visitor to the city blasted us for our disgusting, stinking Bayshore.
Bayshore is touted as a jewel of the city — the longest continuous sidewalk in the world, yet the city leadership doesn't seem to care that the water lapping against Bayshore's railing is full of stinking, rotting trash and sewage. Additionally, the sidewalk is smeared with dog waste from owners who don't clean up after their pets.
I'm ashamed to take visitors to Bayshore. Don't blame the rain or try to say this is a natural phenomenon around the bay. There's nothing natural about this travesty of neglect by the city.
Irene Thompson, Tampa
Why you should care that BP's getting fleeced | July 10, commentary
What happened to good old-fashioned honesty? Of course people deserve compensation if they have been truly wronged, but it is dishonest to claim someone owes you if they don't, regardless of how deep their pockets are.
Our society, more than any, is dominated by lawyers passing laws and affecting our lives, sometimes positively, but almost always without regard to integrity or scruples.
Gerald E. Dorty, St. Petersburg