Letters to the Editor: 12.22.16

Our readers comments

Voted to Re-Elect

Montauk

December 15, 2016

To the Editor:

I would like to thank the people of Montauk, both old friends and new friends, who voted to re-elect me fire commissioner on Dec. 13. I assure you that I will continue to work to protect the lives and property of the Montauk community and provide a safe working environment for the members of the Montauk Fire Department. 

Our bimonthly meetings occur on the second Tuesday and fourth Wednesday of each month. Please join us when you can. 

JOSEPH DRYER

An Offer to Assist

Springs

December 19, 2016

Dear David,

Like many in our community, I was deeply saddened by the loss of the Sag Harbor Cinema last Friday. It is a tragedy first for the owner, who I understand has operated the iconic arts cinema since the late 1970s, but also for the community of Sag Harbor.

For those of us who are lovers of good independent and foreign films that don’t necessarily make it to the multiplex screens, this also represents a significant loss. In response to that loss that I know others are feeling, I want to make a personal offer to assist with pro bono legal services to whatever individual or group of investors seeks to re-establish an arts cinema either at the existing site of the Sag Harbor Cinema or at another site in the Village of Sag Harbor or some other site in East Hampton or Southampton Towns. The legal services will be provided free of charge by my law firm, Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin & Quartararo, L.L.P. Anybody who is working toward filling this newly created void please feel free to contact me. 

Best wishes for the holiday season.

CHRISTOPHER KELLEY

The Fire

Wainscott

December 17, 2016

Dear Editor. 

 The recent disastrous fire in downtown Sag Harbor summoned the bravest, most unselfish neighbors in our towns. The weather conditions were severe, as dangerous as they could be. As usual, the firefighters dropped whatever they were doing and rushed to the scene. It was their devotion to duty, which some take for granted. Had they not performed so magnificently, the entire area could have burned to the ground. They fearlessly battled two enemies, the weather and the fire. They kept it contained and prevented it from spreading in different directions. toward the historical structures that abound. They prevented a total disaster.

Bravo to every single hero that responded. Bravo to the residents who rendered comfort and support. One hundred and fifty firefighters, some from as far away as East Quogue, Riverhead, Montauk, and Eastport, responded because of a sense of duty and service. They stand at the ready 24 hours a day. Great role models for the youth of today to follow in their footsteps!

How do we thank them enough? That is what makes them special, and they protect us no matter what! God bless and protect them.

Yours truly

ARTHUR J. FRENCH

‘Summer House’

Montauk

December 14, 2016

Dear David, 

The Montauk Chamber of Commerce wishes to commend Bess Rattray for a balanced, factual article, “Keeping It Unreal in Montauk,” (Dec. 8), about Bravo TV’s “Summer House” reality show. 

The chamber, the Montauk business community, and the community at large are very concerned that the reality show promotes a false picture of Montauk as a raucous party town when in fact the complete opposite is true. Montauk is a unique hamlet of pristine beaches and preserved parklands and a vacation destination for families, nature lovers, and mature adults. 

Sincerely,

PAUL MONTE

President

LARAINE CREEGAN

Executive Director

‘Unreal in Montauk’

Montauk

December 13, 2016

To the Editor:

While your second headline gave the article “Keeping It Unreal in Montauk” (Dec. 8), a “Bronx cheer,” featuring it on the front page with all its vulgar language and inclusives was surely something a tabloid would do. “Nine 20 and 30-somethings” should stay home. We do not need them in Montauk.

That your article should have been lost in the inside of your paper or entirely lost would have been a good thing. Montauk is a beautiful, natural place with caring and concerned people, and we do not need to be insulted by articles in your newspaper.

AUDREY MORGAN

Off Dunemere Bridge

East Hampton

December 18, 2016

Dear David,

I would like to address the recent negative comments in the local papers and in letters submitted to both The Star and the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals. There has been considerable speculation written regarding the Maidstone Club’s intentions for a cart and pedestrian bridge spanning the tributary at our second hole along Dunemere Lane. Many of these comments are based on mistaken facts and misconceptions. I would like to have a chance to set the record straight. 

Our paramount concern is to improve safety. Removing members, employees, and guests (including local organizations and charities) from the already busy thoroughfare of Dunemere Lane’s stone bridge would be safer for the entire community. Walking or riding ahead of traffic on a narrow section of a stone bridge, especially during wet conditions, is simply not a safe situation. 

A detailed analysis has confirmed that traffic along Dunemere Lane has more than doubled over the last decade. This traffic will only increase, and there is ample evidence that speeding occurs. More and more drivers are using Dunemere as a bypass to avoid congestion in the village, and many are speeding in spite of posted signs and police cruisers, which are present for only short periods of time on a random basis. This past summer, a car was going so fast it could not navigate the turn at Egypt and Dunemere, and flipped over. 

We estimate that 12,000 players, including adults and children of this community, traverse this stretch each season. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, as well as our own local Village Police Department, share our concern. In fact, our chief of police has written a letter expressing his safety concerns and in support of this project. After multiple inspections and an analysis of the plan design, the D.E.C. issued the club a permit to perform the work.

Our plan was that the footbridge would be in keeping with the other iconic bridge structures in Hook Pond and would still allow for a vista beyond the bridge to the tributary beyond. It would not be a steel monster, as some have suggested, but would be low, narrow, and made of all natural “green” materials, which would weather and blend into the landscape over time. Expert consultants, including the village’s own, have concluded that there would be minimal to no impact to fish or other wildlife, nor to the wetlands environment, by the introductions of such a bridge structure. 

We all care deeply about this beautiful place and the desire to protect it from degradation. Over the years, Maidstone has been a primary supporter and steward of the pond and its environment. Recently we have partnered with the Group for the East End and the village in the study and implementation of methods to improve water quality and reduce sediment buildup. For several years, we have conducted an active program to cut invasive phragmites in the pond.

At this time, we have asked for an adjournment from the Z.B.A. and are looking into ways that we can reach an acceptable solution. However, as safety concerns arise due to the pressure of increased usage, we must adapt to that need. Getting 12,000 people a season off the Dunemere bridge is the prudent course of action, and in the best interests of the community.

LINDA BRANDI

President

The Maidstone Club

Things That Are Trash

East Hampton

December 18, 2016

Dear Editor,

To the shotgun hunters: I don’t know the protocol for picking up empty shell casings. I’m not a hunter. I don’t know the rules. I just know I keep picking up these things on the little beach at the end of Hand’s Creek Road on Three Mile Harbor. Sometimes they’re rusted out and dirty, and you can tell they just washed up with the tide. That’s no one’s fault, and I pick them up and throw them away.

A week or so ago, I picked up four or five red ones that were obviously brand-new, and on the dry sand where the tide does not reach, right at the little narrow water passageway between the harbor and the creek. And there were lots of big boot footprints in that area. So I guess the duckhunters were there. Tonight I picked up 19 empty shell casings, all shiny and new, in the same area. And there were also a few I could not reach in the reeds, also obviously new.

Plastic and brass don’t disintegrate that quickly. If you’re sitting there for a length of time shooting, why don’t you pick these things up and throw them away properly? When I walk my two little dogs on a leash there, I’m always picking up bottles of beer and bottles of water and fishing line and lunch containers and other things that are trash that thoughtless folks leave behind on the beach. If you really love living out here in the Hamptons, you should take care of our beautiful natural areas and not use it as a personal dumping ground. Clean up after yourselves, please. 

TRINA SULLIVAN

Peace and Blessing

All friends and neighbors we wish well
On this occasion of Noel
So drink a toast and then a chaser
To Geuses, Taylors, and Betty Mazur
Toss down a warming noggin with
Rona Klopman and Larry Smith
Raise your glass and take it higher
For Jeannie Frankl and Ilissa Meyer
Wish cranberry sauce and turkey, not veal
For Andy Harris and Michael O’Neill
And let’s leave something on the bone
For Jim McMillan and Andy Malone

 

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah
To everyone whose name is Bonacker
Descend bright angels in a band
On Italiano, Hutson, and
Play Christmas music for Chris Kelley

 

For our angel, Judith Hope
A silent night on a snowy slope
For Hitchcock, Armstrong, and Arthur Schiff
We wish a Christmas that is a gift
On till New Year’s — and now we’re done.

 

A Happy New Year, everyone
Stuffers, callers, pollers, then some
Pals, we’ll Pine for you and Balsam
At Christmastide and through the fleeting
Hours until our next year’s meeting
'Til then, old friends, what we beseech
Is peace and blessing, all and each.

ARLENE COULTER

Bears Killed in October

Springs

December 15, 2016

To the Editor:

Living in the middle of bear country in Sussex County, N.J., I can give a good analysis of the bear population in my area. My opinion: Most of the bears were killed in October’s bow-and-arrow and muzzleloader season.

Two female bears that I would occasionally see completely disappeared right after October’s hunt. One can assume they were killed by the trophy-seekers. 

The number of bears killed during December’s shotgun season was staggeringly low. The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife appears to be blaming the weather, which hasn’t been much different this year from previous years. Face the reality that most of our bears were killed in October. And I wouldn’t believe Fish and Wildlife if they say, “Don’t worry, the sows will be giving birth to cubs this winter.” Well, most or all of them were probably killed in October. 

You can thank Fish and Wildlife for just about exterminating New Jersey’s bear population. I saw it first-hand.

SUSAN KEHOE

Hard to Watch

Springs

December 19, 2016

Dear David,

I find myself fascinated by a TV series called “The Man From High Castle,” on Amazon. Actually it’s not worth more than three stars, as is very hard to follow. However the theme is very engrossing, i.e., Germany and Japan having won World War II and now occupying the United States. 

It reveals what it would be like for us citizens to learn to live under such repression. The show is very dark — not only the theme but the music and photography projecting a very dark mood.

I watched season one some time ago and found it interesting to contemplate. But alas, season two, which has just been released, is quite poignant, making it a bit hard to watch, as many of us are wondering if we in the U.S. are at this very moment moving into such a repressive period. But in this case it is now Russia extending its grasp to snuff out in insidious ways the democracy that we have taken for granted.

I can’t help thinking of this as I watch “High Castle,” wondering how it all will play out, how it will affect me, and which characters will be my models.

PEGGY BACKMAN

Social Security ‘Reform’

Springs

September 18, 2016

Dear David:

None of us should forget that Donald Trump campaigned very loudly on an explicit promise not to touch anyone’s Social Security benefits. Unfortunately, and with tens of millions of recipients’ benefits now under attack, we will learn whether this promise, like so many others he barked over the last 18 months, is destined to the dustbin of history.

Without any public explanation, especially curious in light of Mr. Trump’s unambiguous promise, Congressman Sam Johnson (R-Texas), the chairman of the subcommittee on Social Security of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, has introduced another G.O.P. proposal (H.R 6489) to “reform” (read “hollow out all benefit levels”) Social Security, to be taken up when Congress meets next year. Disingenuously described as a method to “permanently save” Social Security, Johnson’s idea of “reform” is to slash nearly everyone’s benefits rather than devise a means to fund the program into the future.

So what would his plan do? According to an analysis prepared by a journalist with Mother Jones (based upon a report by a Social Security actuary), if a recipient has spent his or her life below the poverty level (an annual income of $12,000 or less) Representative Johnson’s plan would bump benefits by 22 percent. Sounds nice, right? Here’s the kicker: people making between $22,000 and $49,000 annually over their lifetimes would see their benefits slashed, up to 28 percent. 

It gets worse. Workers having lifetimes average incomes between $49,000 and $78,000 would on average see a 33 percent cut, and those with average annual incomes between $78,000 and $118,000 would suffer an average 43 percent cut, with some benefits cut as much as 70 percent.

Congressman Johnson’s plan doesn’t even pretend to be friendly to middle-class earners. (Remember Trump’s promise to fight for them.) Instead, it treats the long-term health of Social Security as the paramount goal. Because increasing the program’s revenue is anathema to the G.O.P., the only way to achieve that goal is to dramatically reduce its benefits (and the program’s underlying purpose) through deep and broad benefit cuts. For those of you for whom this is a concern, while you may not be able to afford to retire, you can rest comfortably knowing that the Social Security program may be solvent.

As usual with these plans, a lot of its provisions are phased in gradually over time. But some of them kick in right away; even people who are already retired would suffer benefit cuts. As an example, Johnson’s plan reduces the annual cost-of-living increase — and eliminates it entirely for anyone with past earnings over $85,000 — beginning in 2018.

The incoming G.O.P. establishment has already put Medicare and Medicaid on the chopping block. Now, quietly, Social Security has a target on its back. The unbounded cruelty of the G.O.P. elected leaders toward those they serve, namely us, should not be countenanced.

Sincerely,

BRUCE COLBATH

 

Cost of a New Knee

Springs

December 18, 2016

To the Editor:

How much will my metal knee cost?

One of us is considering a total knee replacement. A titanium knee! So we did some research on cost (the below considerations are applicable to any surgical or medical treatment).

The average overall cost for a knee replacement in the United States is $30,000 to $45,000. The cost is about $40,000 at a hospital in New York City.

More than 400,000 Medicare beneficiaries had knee or hip replacement surgery in 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services reported.

Medicare Part A and Part B (also known as Original Medicare) cover different portions of this procedure and the associated aftercare. How much is covered by Medicare? And what does the patient have to pay?

To keep costs down for the government, Medicare has contracted with the hospital in New York City. Medicare pays a set price for the inpatient hospital portion; let’s estimate $8,000, leaving you to pay a pre-set deductible of $2,000, either from your savings or using a secondary health insurance, if you have one. This covers the Part A portion of Medicare; Part B will pay for physician services.

What about the hospital and the surgeon? Can they charge above the negotiated prices? They have little choice: They can absorb the losses or flatly refuse to take Medicare or Medicaid patients. When Medicare fixes their prices for a given procedure, the hospital and surgeon may not charge the difference between the posted charges and the Medicare reimbursement amount, and the physician accepts “assignment.” The Medicare program developed these payment systems because they realized that hospital charges rarely reflect the true cost of providing services.

The good news is that we found a hospital and a surgeon that will take on the case even though the patient is on Medicare.

Assuming Obamacare is repealed and Medicare is privatized in 2017, how is this going to change coverage for the planned surgery? The government is no longer a player. It is now just the provider (hospital and surgeon) vs. private insurance companies in a free-market system. Insurance companies will want to minimize their costs. They will a) bargain with providers, b) increase the deductible, co-pay, and co-insurance, paid by the patient, and c) increase the monthly patient premium insurance rates. There will be no incentive for providers to cut their costs and be less wasteful. 

Obamacare provided those incentives, known as 1) Accountable Care Organizations, designed to coordinate care, and 2) transitioning from a fee-for-service model (paying on volume) to a bundled payment model (paying on disease episode). At the new bargaining table are only insurance companies and the hospital and surgeon. The patient has no representative at the table, since the government has pulled out. As every lawyer will tell you, without legal representation you are screwed. 

The worst-case scenario is insurance companies increasing premium rates for everyone, because covering an elderly and sicker patient population without help from the government will greatly impact their risk pool. 

It is difficult to model a payment scenario under a newly voucherized system where consumers are given a pre-set premium amount and told to go find the insurance that best suits their needs. We do know the following, though: With Obamacare repealed, insurance companies would no longer be obligated to use 80 percent of premium payments toward patient coverage.

With Obamacare care repealed, lifetime limits may apply. With Obamacare repealed, pre-existing exclusions may come back. With Medicare privatized, deductibles, co-insurance, and co-pays will no longer be set by Medicare, but by the needs of the insurance company.

Let’s make some assumptions. The hospital still offers the procedure for $40,000, and it has contracted with your selected, privatized Medicare insurance to do it for $20,000. However, that $20,000 will include a much higher deductible, co-pays, and co-insurance that will be the patient’s responsibility. So, whereas under traditional Medicare, in our example, the patient responsibility will be about $2,000, payments under a new privatized plan, unfortunately, will skyrocket — perhaps to $4,000 to $8,000?

DAVID N. POSNETT