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LETTERS for May 7 issue

By Staff | May 7, 2015

Celebrating Earth Day

As a class, we decided that cleaning the beach located in front of our school, King Kamehameha III Elementary, would be a great way to celebrate Earth Day and to make a difference in our community.

We were so fortunate to come across a Hawaiian monk seal sunbathing on the beach! We collected a lot of garbage and brought it back to our classroom. We made a sculpture and called it “A Day At The Beach.”

Seeing the seal on the beach brought up a lot of conversation on how sad it is that the garbage we collected would at some time make its way to the ocean and may be seen to many ocean animals as a source of food. We have studied about the impact pollution has on our ocean animals.

We would like to express that it is our responsibility to keep Maui beautiful. To do this, we ask that everyone take part. Pick up trash – even if it is not yours. Take time to recycle. Respect our land and do your part. As a teacher, I hope that this will be a lifelong lesson for my students.

KAREN TWITCHELL, King Kamehameha III School


Debt forgiveness: End the student loan industrial complex

On April 15, the Department of Education stated it is “working on a process to help federal student loan borrowers submit a defense to repayment of their federal student loans.” The statement came with a press release announcing that the federal government will fine Corinthian Colleges $29.6 million for lying to students about its jobs placement numbers. The DOE cites nearly 1,000 cases of outright lying to students, including one incident where an accounting student’s previous position at Taco Bell was listed as a successful job placement.

“Defense to repayment” refers to an obscure provision that forgives federal student loans when “schools have done something wrong” according to state law. The DOE is now working toward a formal process for addressing such requests, as none have existed before.

Activists from the National Consumer Law Center and New America Foundation are concerned that the new process will impose arbitrary requirements on those seeking debt relief or become a “horrible web of red tape.” For-profit-colleges are notorious for their dishonest recruitment and surprise expenses. They are known to prey upon those with few options, who are looking to get out of tough situations. Their outright fraud is completely incompatible with a free society.

Worse, a major source of funding for the for-profit college industry is federal student loans. It is debatable whether the student loans program will cost or earn billions of dollars for the government over the next decade, depending on what accounting system is used, but it is a clear conflict of interest for the state to be earning interest off dishonest education schemes.

The student debt crisis is not limited to students in for-profit schools, but state institutions as well. Federal student loans have the problem of being one size fits all. In a market setting, lenders would be able to assess students’ future prospects before lending. By making student loans so widely available, the state contributes to making higher education a “must have” for even entry-level jobs.

Corporations are now able to abandon in-house education, shifting costs to taxpayers and students. Degrees themselves have become commodities rather than the skills acquired. In such an environment, universities are able to charge students for four years of irrelevant courses rather than simply granting the degree or certification for a specific trade or skill. Furthermore, it allows corporations to justify shifting greater percentages of their pay to overly credentialed upper management. The same happens at universities themselves, as administration costs and tuition skyrocket while cuts are made everywhere else.

The end result is students are forced to choose between overpriced state colleges or predatory for-profit schools. The banking interests who benefit from this situation also benefit from a series of laws, making it near impossible to absolve student debt through bankruptcy (unlike other types of debt). The state also makes it difficult to create alternatives to this system, as anyone seeking to start their own college or trade school will have costly red tape to work through. It funds predatory for-profit institutions and over-priced public institutions while artificially raising the credentials needed for entry-level work. The state is at the heart of the debt crisis. Let’s forgive the debt it creates and kill the student loan industrial complex.



Concerned about Antarctic volcano

I am very concerned about the geological circumstance the Antarctic is in. An active volcano has erupted dead center under all that ice (1.5 miles thick).

The story is that the volcano picks up as the water level increases from global warming. This water level weight is putting pressure on the floor of the sea, forcing the volcanic eruptions.

The Antarctic volcano is creating a warm water layer between the ice bottom and the massive glacier. It is only a matter of time before it slides. There is no hard rock land mass to catch the slide. Everything under there is thick, loose silt.

When the glacier slides, it will displace enough water to raise the water level at sea all over the Earth eight feet, after an enormous water surge that will tear most boats from their moorings and cause great destruction.



How you can help stop Medicare fraud

Most doctors, pharmacists and other health care providers who work with Medicare are honest. Unfortunately, some aren’t.

One common form of Medicare fraud is when Medicare is billed for health care services or benefits that you never received. Someone could have gotten access to your Medicare number and submitted a false claim. In some cases, fraudsters pay Medicare beneficiaries to use their Medicare numbers. To prevent this from taking place, never share your Medicare number with anyone you don’t know and trust.

Medicare fraud costs taxpayers and people with Medicare lots of money each year. So what can you do to help stop it?

When you get health care services, write down the dates on your calendar and save the receipts and statements you get from your doctors and other providers to check for mistakes. If you think you see an error, or you were billed for services you didn’t get, take these steps:

If you are in the Original Medicare program (where the federal government pays health care claims for you), check your monthly “Medicare Summary Notice” (MSN) to see if the applicable services were billed correctly to Medicare. The services and claims should match, like checks on a bank statement. If there are services, doctors or suppliers that you don’t know and can’t reconcile, there may be a problem.

If you’re in a Medicare Advantage private health plan, check the statements you get from your plan.

If you’re unsure what services were billed, call and ask the doctor or other supplier for an itemized statement. They should give this to you within 30 days.

In any case, the sooner you see and report errors in your health care billing, the sooner we can help address and stop fraud.

How do you report suspected fraud?

If you’ve contacted the health care provider or supplier, and you suspect that Medicare is being charged for a service, device or other supplies that you didn’t receive, or if you don’t recognize the doctor or other providers listed on the claim, here’s what to do: call the fraud hotline of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477). TTY users should call 1-800-377-4950. Alert Medicare’s customer service team at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) that you have concerns or questions about information appearing on your MSN.

Did you know that there’s a program that works with Medicare beneficiaries around the country to fight fraud? It’s called the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) Program. For more information, or to find your local SMP Program, visit smpresource.org or call 1-877-808-2468. You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE.

Keep in mind that every tip counts. Medicare takes all reports of suspected fraud seriously.

When you report fraud, you may not hear of an outcome right away. It takes time to investigate and build a case. Be assured that your information is helping us protect Medicare and you.

DAVID SAYEN, Medicare’s Regional Administrator for Hawaii