Saturday, November 10, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST November 10, 2007

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Some Florida Medicare users may be hit with higher drug costs
Low-income people could have to change plans

By Bob LaMendola
November 9, 2007

More than half of the 570,000 low-income Medicare recipients in Florida will be forced to change their prescription coverage or pay more per month on Jan. 1 because their drug plans are raising prices too much, consumer advocates said Thursday.

Many low-income people are unaware of or confused about the issue and may wind up unable to pay the higher prices or unable to get medicine if they switch to a drug plan that doesn't cover what they take, advocates said.

"We fear there will be bad health outcomes," said Anne Swerlick, deputy director of Florida Legal Services, one of three nonprofit agencies that raised the issue at a news briefing. "When you have people with serious health conditions, it's nightmarish for them to navigate all this."

Nationwide, the change affects one-quarter of 9.2 million low-income seniors and disabled recipients. Low income is under $15,315 for individuals, $23,410 for couples.

Medicare's drug program lets low-income recipients avoid premiums and co-payments if they join drug plans with premiums below a certain price, about $20 per month in Florida next year. But eight of this year's 10 qualifying plans in Florida will not qualify next year because they raised prices, including popular plans from Humana and AARP.

As a result, 230,000 Floridians will automatically be switched into plans that do qualify. Another 80,000 will have to switch on their own or choose to pay premiums of up to $10 a month to stay in their plans, said the National Senior Citizens Law Center, one of the nonprofit groups.

Medicare recipients are getting letters to help them address the situation, but some will not take action or understand, said Kevin Prindiville, staff attorney at the senior law center. Those who switch may not find out until too late that the new plan does not cover their drugs, he said.

Medicare officials were not available for comment.


Hardaway Is Changed Man After Anti-Gay Slurs
Former Heat Star Says "Words Were Terrible"


Jim Berry SOUTH MIAMI (CBS4) ? Months after Tim Hardaway's anti-gay comments sparked anger in the homosexual community the former Heat star has resurfaced a new man. Hardaway says gay classes at the YES Institute made him realize how wrong he was.

CBS4 's Jim Berry caught up with Hardaway at the YES Institute. The former Heat all-star says he is a more open person and is hopeful that he can live a normal life again.

"I know a lot more now and I'm willing to talk to people and I want to make sure they understand that my words were terrible and I didn't mean them," said Hardaway.



From Mark LaFontaine for Florida State House District #92

Mark will be a guest on Florida Progressive Radio, for a special VeteransDay edition at 2:00 P.M. on Sunday November 11th, 2007.

Also if you have not already done so be sure to RSVP for :

Join Candidate Mark LaFontaine
Avi & Chef Simone
for a Campaign Fundraiser
November 12th 2007 6:00 PM

Dinner at MAMALE KOSHER Restaurant
1672 E Oakland Park Blvd Fort Lauderdale, 33334

Minimum Contribution $50.00
Seating is Limited Please RSVP 954-651-3147

If you would prefer to contribute by mail, send a check to:
Mark LaFontaine Campaign
P.O. Box 23697
Oakland Park, FL 33307-3697

To Make a Contribution on line CLICK HERE


The New York Times

Florida Ends Shuttling of Refugees to Canada

November 10, 2007

A Florida organization that assisted hundreds of illegal immigrants in fleeing to Canada must close and return thousands of dollars it collected from the immigrants, who believed they would be given legal status in that country, Florida's attorney general said yesterday.

Complaining of stepped-up sweeps by American immigration officials, about 450 people made their way from Florida to Canada in recent months with guidance from the organization, the Jerusalem Haitian Community Center, of Naples. Mostly Mexicans and Haitians, they presented themselves as refugees seeking asylum. Many are still waiting for hearings.

"While the state attorney general's office cannot enforce federal immigration law in this case, my office can investigate potentially misleading or deceptive practices, and I believe this organization was engaging in questionable practices," said Bill McCollum, the state attorney general. Many of the immigrants paid "donations" to the center of as much as $400, his office found.

The authorities in Windsor, on the Canadian side of the border at Detroit, complained that they could not afford the costs of social services if the arrivals continued. Most of all, advocates for refugees in Canada warned that the odds of such immigrants being granted asylum were poor.

To win refugee status in Canada, immigrants must show a reasonable fear of persecution connected to their race, religion, nationality or political background.

more . . . . .



Federal aid to South Florida's food banks dwindles as the need grows
Donations decline as more residents suffer from hunger

By Ivette M. Yee
November 10, 2007

Much-desired staples including rice, pasta, milk and peanut butter are showing up less in food bags for the needy as federal aid has sunk to food banks nationwide. And those fighting hunger have to rely more heavily on businesses and the public to lend a hand.

Officials at the Daily Bread, South Florida's largest food bank, said U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities - surplus food and food the government buys regularly from farmers, such as rice, produce and pasta - once made up 15 percent of its total food supply. Now that's down to 11 percent. Daily Bread gives 18 million pounds of food to 700 nonprofit organizations in South Florida each year.

"The agencies continue coming to us and telling us that their need is growing," said Robert Peters, associate director of Daily Bread. "But we're not holding onto the food, we're not storing it. We're just not receiving it."

Just three years ago the USDA gave food banks in Florida 26 million pounds of food for the needy through The Emergency Food Assistance Program, known as TEFAP. This year the total fell to 15 million pounds, said Gloria Van Treese, of the state Bureau of Food Distribution, part of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The USDA gives a certain amount to each state based on the level of unemployment and poverty.

The USDA drop comes at a time when one out of six Broward County residents say they suffer from hunger, according to a Broward County Food Security Survey released in June. In Palm Beach County, more than 53,000 people are enrolled in the government food stamp program, said officials at the United Way.

more . . . . .



Broward County to close parks on Veterans Day
County says it needed to cut budget

By Scott Wyman
November 10, 2007

If you're off work Monday for Veterans Day, don't plan to grill out with friends at Topeekeegee Yugnee Park or take the kids to the water playground at Quiet Waters Park.

For the first time, regional parks run by Broward County government will be closed on a holiday - a decision forced by budget cuts made to provide tax relief to homeowners.

County parks traditionally are open year-round, but Monday is one of three days that visitors will now find the gates shut and locked. Parks will also be closed the day after Thanksgiving as well as Christmas Day.

"It's a travesty, an absolute travesty," said Barry Wilen of Hollywood, who walks four days a week in his city's T.Y. Park. "They could have a skeleton crew. A park needs to be available on the days when the public is most inclined to use it, and that would seem to be when schools are closed and people are off work."

Parks officials said they chose the three days because they believe they are the ones when the fewest people visit. Also, the days are costly because workers are paid at the holiday rates of 50 percent over their normal salary.

more . . . . .



Override of Everglades bill a lesson for Bush, a benefit for Florida

November 9, 2007
ISSUE: Congress overrides a Bush veto.

Congress voted to override a Bush veto - the first time for this president. That milestone is notable enough, but there's a more important message coming out of this bipartisan decision to defy the White House.

The president took a dubious stand on the wrong bill. America needs to shore up its ailing infrastructure, which includes a number of aging dams, levees, flood control systems and waterways across the country. Congress crafted the Water Resources Development Act as a bipartisan effort to address those problems.

Florida, in particular, will be a big beneficiary. Seven years have passed since the historic signing of the measure to restore the Florida Everglades. Since then, Congress and the president have sparred over federal funding. Bush spoke favorably of Everglades restoration, but he still vetoed the one bill that would have opened the door to federal coffers and accelerate this badly needed water project. The override will jump-start that process.

Given the importance of the restoration project, it should surprise no one that a number of House Republicans in Florida's congressional delegation rebuffed Bush. The override makes sense for an elected official from Florida, even for those lawmakers who normally stand with the president, right or wrong.

Granted, the bill carries a $23 billion price tag, a cost the president said arranted the veto. The reasoning, though, doesn't make any sense.

The water bill doesn't guarantee immediate funding. Congress still has to ppropriate the money to pay for projects listed in the bill, which gives the president ample opportunity to address cost concerns. Besides, the president only discovered his veto pen very late in the game - after Democrats gained a majority in the Congress. His five vetoes in this Congress aren't enough to make him a budget hawk.

Bush and the Congress will spar again over spending. The override, though, should send a message that this legislation, and the projects it authorizes, is too important to cast aside.

BOTTOM LINE: The decision amounts to a lesson for Bush and a benefit to Florida.


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