IBC rate increases far from modest

A letter on Thursday ("Blue Cross forgets its social mission") pointed out that Independence Blue Cross has once again increased its surplus. Small wonder.

I recently received a letter from IBC notifying me of a rate increase, and quite an increase it was. We are retired and living on a relatively fixed but comfortable income. Our premium has been increased from $1,200 to more than $1,900 a month.

I dare any state insurance commissioner to show me how IBC's expenses have increased by more than 50 percent. We all expect the natural increases that come with living expenses and plan accordingly. Does anyone plan for a $700-a-month increase for a commodity you can't live without? Doubtful. So until we reach 65 and Medicare, a bit of belt-tightening and looking for insurance alternatives is going to be taking up our "golden years."

Bill Cohen

Huntingdon Valley

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Keep the pressure on the school district

I quite agree with the editorial on May 31 ("Young families don't stay").

That is why The Inquirer must continue to put pressure on the Philadelphia School District administration. Every month, it should focus on one or more schools and review their performance in terms of attendance, truancy, sick leave, violent acts committed against teachers and students, budget performance, academic results, parental involvement, lawsuits, and quality of teaching and materials.

There are times when it seems as if the school system is run as an entitlement program for Superintendent Arlene Ackerman and her cronies (i.e., favored contractors). With a $3.2 billion annual budget, you would think that every child would have new textbooks, pencils, pens, paper, and the best lab equipment. What on earth do they spend that general fund on. Security, closed-circuit TV, and metal detectors?

Juris A. Balodis

Marlton

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Seniors face financial constraints

I am appalled that Mayor Nutter wants to increase real-estate taxes yet again - this after a 10 percent increase that came due in February.

My husband and I are in our 70s, and this is what we face: the aforementioned increase in real-estate taxes; increased home and car insurance rates (our home insurance premiums went up 40 percent last year, and car insurance went up 28 percent); sharp increases in gas prices and food prices. Heating and electric bills have also gone up.

We have almost exhausted our savings. We live on fixed incomes and have no way to acquire any additional money to support the above.

I think many seniors are grappling with the same problems we are. I just wish someone would take into consideration what all this means for those who worked hard all their lives, saved, lived modestly, and now can no longer expect a comfortable retirement.

Claire Donohue

Philadelphia

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Good to remember the story of Ruth

Orchids to Sister Mary Scullion for her op-ed piece ("Homeless proposal is inhumane," Thursday), in which she pointed out that Councilman Frank DiCicco's proposal to cite or arrest homeless people in Center City without first calling for social services is callous. She sees this as indifference to those caught in the web of misfortune, suffering, and deprivation.

Their plight should be a call for justice. All the great religions have concern for the poor as a major tenet. The Jewish holiday coming soon, Shavuot, requires the reading of the biblical story of Ruth.

Naomi and her daughter Ruth, their husbands dead, return to the Holy Land and survive because a Jewish farmer obeys the biblical commandment to leave the corners of his field for gleaning by the poor. They both survive, and Ruth becomes the great-grandmother of the great religious figure David, considered a forerunner of the Messiah.

Philip Rosen

Philadelphia

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How best to control education costs

A much more efficacious solution to controlling education costs is available than the one proposed by the Medford School District ("Don't make students pay," Thursday). Rather than increase the fees charged to student teachers to get classroom time, the following should be considered:

Go to full-year school terms. Utilize the infrastructure taxpayers have provided on a year-round basis. Class size could then be reduced. Students don't have a constitutional right to summers off. The rationale for summers off (helping on the family farm) is hardly pertinent today.

Eliminate all competitive team sports from the school budget. Competitive sports provide an advantage for a minority of the student body. Spend the money on education that will impact more students. For example, use money spent on high school football teams for language labs to allow students to gain proficiency in foreign languages.

Support Gov. Christie in his attempts to break the teachers' union. Tenured teachers have no review process and no comparative evaluation standard. This allows ineffective teachers to continue plodding along until they can retire at taxpayers' expense.

Much more effective change can be managed if school boards would allocate their funding in a more efficient manner.

Rick Sandquist

Woolwich

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Medical questions need plain answers

The article on Sunday "Prison terms sought for 4 over deadly medical tests," about the criminal case against Synthes executives for illegal marketing of a bone cement (Norian), contained an important takeaway: When dealing with physicians, always ask and get plain-English answers to two questions: First, is what is being prescribed off-label? Second, are you receiving any financial or other inducement from anyone for prescribing it?

Diane C. Moskal

Abington