After being sued by the Wall Street Journal, the government finally released its Medicare reimbursement data last week. It included the less-than-stunning revelation that 28 of the 100 doctors who received the largest payments in 2012 were from Florida.
No other state came close. And no physician in the country billed Medicare for bigger bucks than Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, a West Palm Beach ophthalmologist who operates several clinics and is tight with a powerful Democratic senator.
Melgen got almost $21 million from Medicare in 2012. (No, you don’t need your vision checked -$20,827,341 is the actual number, for one year.)
Is there a medically-recognized ailment known as magazine addiction? If not, perhaps there should be. Victims of this ailment can be easily recognized, usually by the postal workers who must lug the magazines to the addressee’s doorstep and try to somehow fit the periodicals into the mailbox.
Magazine addiction has several causes, although an average addict may not manifest every symptom. Loneliness and a sense of isolation can be a trigger. If I feel disconnected to the human race, the arrival of a dozen or more magazines each month can make me feel plugged in to the world. If Sally flunked out of high school and is tired of hearing her better-educated neighbors talk about high-falutin’ topics such as Vladimir Putin and the federal reserve, she may succumb to the notion that compulsive reading of many magazines will elevate her into membership in Mensa. Good luck with that, Sally.
If you randomly examine, say, 20 different magazines, you’ll be struck by a disillusioning fact: only a few will have much worthwhile content. Many - if not most - publications are nothing more than advertising vehicles. The publishers don’t really want to inform or educate you and me. They want us to rush out and buy the mostly unnecessary products they advertise.
C. Fred Jones was always good for a great quote. I remember talking to the former Auburndale state legislator in the 1980s about the possibility of the Legislature’s session having to be extended for a month.
The shorter, the better, he said, “because anytime the Legislature meets, your life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are in danger.”
Still holds true. And when the Legislature meets, common sense goes on sabbatical. For instance, why are some of our state leaders hell bent on making voting more difficult and killing people easier?
I’ve been reading about the recent troubles college fraternities have gotten into because of two things: alcohol and hazing. Just when we’re convinced that all the customs of the world have changed, and that the old days and old ways are gone forever, we hear about dear old Alpha Gamma Ray or some other fraternity getting sued or thrown off campus because of killing one of its pledges by forcing him to drink a gallon of vodka within half an hour.
As in days of yore, everyone throws up their hands and exclaims, “How awful! How could this happen in our enlightened society?” So let’s think about that.
For openers, start with the booze. Historians tell us that alcohol was invented about three seconds after the Big Bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago. (I’m exaggerating, of course, but I often do this to make a point.) My point is that alcohol has been around ever since humans discovered (by accident or intent) how to make it. Since that time, alcohol has been part of life. One theory says man was a hunter/gatherer until he began growing crops that could be fermented or distilled. He soon learned that by tossing in some sugar and other ingredients and stirring the mix for a few weeks, he could produce a marvelous beverage. When swallowed, it gave him a whole new outlook on life. He shouted, “No more hunting deer and groundhogs for me - I’m gonna be a farmer!”
A few months ago I surrendered my Verizon 4G smart phone. It was an ostentatious instrument, capable of doing everything from reporting the exact time in Baruun-Urt, Mongolia, to broadcasting country music from Toad Suck, Ark.
For two years my trusty Android robbed me of hours upon hours of time as I searched the Web for tasty treats like akutag, a frosty Arctic dessert made from seal or moose fat, to goodies from the Weird Food Club of New York City that includes scorpion with chili peppers, broiled snake, goose intestines, and brain soup. Ummm. Yummy!
Then there was the probing of news sites from around the world, or listening to live stream radio stations from distant places like Fiji, Iceland, Fairbanks, and Tampa. (OK, so Tampa is not that far away.) I thrilled to the days of yesteryear on an old time radio app as the Lone Ranger galloped across the plains with his faithful companion, Tonto, or the creaking door as the Shadow emitted his bizarre guffaw.
Should Congress repeal Obamacare? If you had asked that before the botched Affordable Care Act rollout, I would have had a hard time answering yes. I didn’t see how the scheme could work, but I also believed that Washington owed the millions of Americans who I was told had been waiting desperately for years for guaranteed health care.
Now I say, “What’s in a name?” There’s no need for a repeal when Washington is bound to revamp the law. The reason: Consumers aren’t buying it.
According to the White House, more than 6 million people have signed onto Obamacare exchanges. Problem: The law kicked close to 5 million Americans off their private health care plans. Also, the administration says it doesn’t know how many new plan members actually are paying their premiums, so that 6 million figure could be highly inflated.
THE ELEPHANT AND THE RECEPTIONIST. An elephant walked into a stockbroker’s office and told Pam, the receptionist, “I’m here to apply for your opening as a hedge fund manager.” Pam said, “I’m sorry, but we hire only bulls or bears.” Disappointed, the elephant rampaged through the place, knocking down walls and tossing desks and computers through the air. Moral: if you’re a receptionist named Pam and an elephant walks in, get out.
THE SHARK AND THE TURTLE. In the waters of Tampa Bay, on the Pinellas end of the Howard Frankland Bridge, there lived a shark and a turtle. The turtle kept bragging to the shark, saying “I can live both on the land and in the water, but you must spend your life in the water. I’m therefore better than you.” The shark finally said, “Yes, you certainly are.” At which point he gobbled up the turtle, with a mighty crunch. Moral: if you’re a turtle living near a shark, either shut up or stay on shore.
THE OLD MAN AND HIS DOCTOR BILLS. Each January an old man named Jake went crazy trying to figure out his medical bills. His eye doctor charged him $72 for a Jan. 6 checkup, plus $35 for a refraction he didn’t need or ask for. His primary care doctor charged him $73 to look at his sore throat on Jan. 28. Jake was puzzled. He had Medicare and Medigap insurance, so why was he being charged? He called the Medigap company, UHARP, and was told, “We don’t actually do insurance. We farm it out to the XYZ Healthcare Co.” Jake dialed the XYZ phone number, and spoke to a lady in Pakistan who told him, “You bean billed for Medicare deductible, Meester Jake. Wassa mattah fo you?” Jack phoned Medicare and was told by a taped voice, “Your call is important to us. It may be recorded for quality, or just for the heck of it. Please stay on the line.”
I want to tell you a story about why our community desperately needs to be aware of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentoring programs. As a current Big Brother, I hope my story will inspire all who encounter it. So please, take a moment to join me on my mentoring journey and see where it takes you.
Our first meeting was inauspicious. Shaq was barely awake and sat uninterested on the couch. Our first outings were awkward. He was guarded in his responses, and we had little to talk about. After subsequent visits Shaq would always ask me if I was coming back, I assured him I would. I thought to myself, here’s a kid who’s been let down and hurt before.
I made the mistake of many new Big Brothers; I tried to make each outing an event and spent too much money trying to entertain. Shaq was unclear on the Big Brother concept. He thought I was a paid employee and could not believe I was spending my own money on him. As the weeks went on we became more comfortable with each other. Shaq stopped asking if I was coming back. I got to know Shaq’s grandmother, Doris, who raised him since he was a baby.
Connections @ Park Station
PINELLAS PARK – The Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce hosts Connections @ Park Station, 5851 Park Blvd., Room 101, a free networking event, on the second and fourth Fridays of the month at 8:30 a.m.
Contact Carl Lucchi at 458-7863 for more information.
Fair Housing Symposium CLEARWATER - Registration is underway for the 11th annual Fair Housing Symposium, presented by the Tampa Bay Fair Housing Consortium, on Friday, April 25, from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Pinellas Realtors Organization auditorium, 4590 Ulmerton Road in Clearwater.
The event, co-sponsored by the Pinellas County Office of Human Rights, provides fair housing information useful for housing providers, real estate agents, property managers, attorneys, government officials, apartment personnel and the public.
Featured speakers include Wesley Aleshire, a national fair housing trainer; Steve Tomkowiak, a former judicial clerk with the U.S. District Court in Michigan’s Eastern District; and Max Lapertosa, a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Among the topics covered will be lending discrimination, domestic violence and rights and responsibilities related to assistance animals.
Advance registration is $30. Cost is $35 at the door. Visit www.gtar.org to register online and for more information about the Symposium. Check-in begins at 8 a.m. If special accommodations are required, registrants can call Mark Esparza at 464-4801 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday Morning Market
TREASURE ISLAND – The annual Friday Morning Market is underway at Treasure Island Community Park and will continue through early April. The event, which features a variety of vendors, is open each Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free.
Overeaters Anonymous Amigos
ST. PETERSBURG – Overeaters Anonymous Amigos, a program of recovery for eating disorders, meets Fridays, 11 a.m., at Beacon House, 2151 Central Ave.
The newest Pinellas OA group features a bilingual message.
For information, call Margie C. at 828-9711. There are no dues or fees and a list of meetings may be viewed at oapinellas.org
Scottish American Society social gatherings Ceilidhs, traditional Gaelic social gatherings, are held every Friday night from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Scottish American Society of Dunedin, 917 Louden Ave., Dunedin.
The cost is $5 for nonmembers. The social club is dedicated to the preservation of Scottish culture, offering Scottish country dancing, line dancing, holiday dinners and parties.
VFW fish fry, bingo
DUNEDIN – The Dunedin-Palm Harbor VFW Post 2550 hosts a fish/shrimp fry every Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. at 360 Douglas Ave.
The post sponsors bingo each Wednesday and Friday. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. Bingo starts at noon.
The public is invited. Call 733-6107.
Wine and cheese social and silent auction SOUTH PASADENA – A wine and cheese social and silent auction will be presented Friday, April 25, 6 to 8 p.m., at Pasadena Liquors and Fine Wines, 1100 Pasadena Ave. S.
Cost is $15. Proceeds will benefit Suncoast Voices for Children.
For information, visit www.suncoastchildren.org.
13th Annual Touch-a-Truck DUNEDIN - 13th Annual Touch-a-Truck, Saturday, April 26, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Highlander Park.
Feel the power and hear the engines roar and sit in, touch, and feel a real-life collection of trucks, cars, motorcycles, fire engines, tractors and more. Concessions, music and inflatables complete this awesome experience.
Chamilia Trunk Show MADEIRA BEACH – Jeff the Jeweler, at 201 Tom Stuart Causeway, will host its Chamilia Trunk Show on Saturday, April 26, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
This event will be feature Secret Garden limited edition beads. Exclusive spring beads will be available at the show only. Attendees will have an opportunity to meet Chamilia representative Laura Rodriques.