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LETTERS for June 16 issue

By Staff | Jun 16, 2016

Mahalo for supporting the Restaurant Races

Lahaina Canoe Club would like to extend a big mahalo to everyone who participated in our 36th annual celebration of the Restaurant Races! Congratulations to our overall champions, Cool Cats and Down the Hatch, taking home the perpetual paddle trophies to their restaurants/bars.

Be sure to stop by those watering holes and take a look at what you might win next year in our 37th effort of this traditional Lahaina event.

Another shout out to Deejay Mike for spinning the tunes; by getting the beach pumping, we were able to encourage a few Maui visitors to make some crews to compete – demonstrating that all are welcome at Lahaina Canoe Club. Apparently, the SoCal girls are already training for next year!

Stalwart supporters Leilani’s on the Beach (food) and Maui Jim’s (equipment) were ever-present with their generous kokua. Every year, gang – can’t thank you enough!



Former columnist says mahalo

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated.

I want to thank the many, many people – including many who I do not know – who recognize me from my picture in the paper, or others, from the security man to a recent letter writer wondering why I stopped, or thanking me for my “Voices of Maui” column. No, I do not have a dread disease – as far as I know – and I do not believe in retiring at any age.

An apology goes to Kapono Gecko, the fictional character that I failed to acknowledge in my farewell column, for not letting him know beforehand. It turns out Gecko was thinking of stopping his commentary as well, content to spend days reading used books in his new home at the Maui Friends of the Library bookstore at The Wharf Cinema Center. He will never run out of books on a topic, though he prefers nature reading. He loves reading some of the new Hawaiian books they have there on fish and birds.

A common comment has been, “… so you are retiring.” Not really. Being passionate about something in your later years, I read recently, is the key to a very long life if you are lucky. I am still passionate about a lot of things here, including my books

I plan to do as much writing as I ever have and will have an increased presence in social media. Follow me on twitter at mauiwriter and facebook/normbezane.

Aloha and mahalo!



Celebrating Muhammad Ali

Thousands are heading to Louisville, Kentucky to mourn the death and celebrate the life of Muhammad Ali.

Ali will never be forgotten. He shook up the world, and the world is a better place.

I grew up watching Ali on ABC television. He was a real eyebrow-raiser. I had never seen anyone brag like Ali before. Humility was not in his vocabulary, and it was okay because he was a thrill to watch.

The Internet and libraries are yet to see the mega volumes of columns, books and opinions still to be written about Ali. Few people have accomplished so much in such a short period of time. He is the greatest boxing champion in the history of boxing.

Ali’s universal appeal is intriguing. He was a Muslim, and I haven’t heard anybody say anything against him because of his religion. People of all religions and nationalities seem to embrace Ali. I realize there are always a few holdouts who hate everybody, but overall, Ali was embraced and loved around the world. We should love all people, and all religions should promote love and peace. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

We know there have been times back when things were not so great for Ali. For three years, he was banned from boxing because of his objection to Vietnam and his refusal to serve in the military. This still bugs people to this day.

My brother spent a year in Vietnam. None of us enjoyed those 12 months. My neighbor down the road from me was killed in Vietnam. We wept and grieved through that experience. I don’t remember anybody craving to join the military when I was in high school. I don’t remember anybody hoping to be drafted. People went to college all the time – hoping to avoid the draft – but then were drafted as soon as they graduated. Most everybody hated the Vietnam War. People still suffer today who had to go there or who lost family members in Vietnam.

Ali was just more brash and determined to resist the status quo in his day. He refused to go and paid a small price of missing three years of boxing. Many others went and never lived to come home to their families. Ali’s sacrifice pales greatly in comparison to what so many have given for this country.

Ali did what every American is entitled to do, and that is freely state his opinions. He made a determination to not serve the military, and everyone else has the freedom to form their own opinions about him.

Today, he is iconic. Because of his phenomenal boxing success, his charisma, his ability to entertain and put action behind his words, he will forever be a world figure and a sports hero in the eyes of so many.

For many years, Louisville will be a destination to celebrate and honor Ali as the greatest sports figure of all time.



Proposed Medicare changes would hurt cancer patients

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) recently proposed a major change to the way Medicare pays for advanced cancer medicines. Unfortunately, the changes threaten cancer patients’ access to lifesaving care.

Many people are familiar with Medicare Part D, which covers prescription drugs that beneficiaries purchase at pharmacies. Part B, however, is less well known. It covers drugs for illnesses such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and immune diseases that are administered at clinics or outpatient hospitals.

CMMI believes doctors prescribe expensive drugs, rather than clinically appropriate drugs, because under Part B doctors receive a percentage of the drug’s price to cover the cost of administering it. While there is no evidence doctors prescribe the wrong drug so they make more money, CMMI nevertheless proposes to “fix” this supposed problem by altering physicians’ reimbursements.

Doctors who administer a drug under Part B were traditionally reimbursed the average sales price of the medicine plus 6 percent. Following budget cuts in 2013, Medicare officials reduced that rate to about 4.3 percent.

Now, they’re proposing to cut it to 2.5 percent, but add a flat fee of around $17 each time doctors administer a medicine.

CMMI ignores the impact this change will have on patients. Smaller community practices and those in rural communities will drop patients that lack supplemental insurance or send them to major hospitals for treatment; this occurred in 2013 with the “sequestration” budget cuts. CMMI’s latest cuts will force more providers to turn away patients.

And if making patients potentially drive hundreds of miles each week for chemotherapy wasn’t enough, CMMI proposes to test a host of “value-based care models.”

For example, in one model officials would compare a drug’s average life expectancy gains to its cost. If the drug doesn’t meet an arbitrary dollars-to-days ratio, it’s considered a bad bargain for the Medicare.

Some countries, like Britain, already use cost-effectiveness metrics to restrict doctors’ ability to prescribe advanced drugs. Unsurprisingly, cancer survival rates are lower in those nations than in countries that don’t interfere in doctor-patient treatment decisions.

That begs the question: who receives the “value” from these models? Is it patients, who potentially lose access to the most innovative, life-saving treatments? Or is it Medicare, which saves money by denying payments for treatments the government decides aren’t “cost-effective.”

The health of tens of millions of Americans hangs in the balance. Men have a 50-50 chance of developing cancer in their lifetimes; for women, it is one in three. Given that cancer disproportionately impacts older adults, it is likely that if a person develops cancer, he or she will rely on Medicare Part B to cover treatment costs.

Americans must ask themselves: when they or their loved ones develop cancer, do they want to receive the treatment their doctors say will provide the best chance of survival and quality of life? Or do they want to receive only the medicines that government officials deem cost-effective?

Patient health is not something to be toyed with. It’s time for the government officials who tinker with reimbursement formulas to realize that their fiddling has consequences for real people.

ERIC HARGIS, Colon Cancer Alliance.