Peter R. Orszag and Ezekiel J. Emanuel (“The truth about out-of-pocket medical costs,” Jan. 8) grow ecstatic over the touted benefits of Obamacare high-deductible insurance and increased insurance coverage.
Political malpractice by the likes of Emanuel and Orszag has led us to unaffordable deductibles packaged with unaffordable insurance controlled by merged HMO-ACO corporations. After some irrational economic mumbo-jumbo, they say, “people tend to deal with deductibles irrationally.”
Their new Obamacare cost-control twist is corporations profit-driven to ration care at the nation’s bedside. Corporate gatekeepers are paid more for ordering less care and paid less for ordering “too much” use of corporate money.
Can we fix this high-priced, apparatchik-controlled medical marketplace? It’s not likely to work if the government pays for all care and rationing is still controlled by profit-driven merged medical delivery insurance corporations.
A prescription that could work is a medical marketplace in which the consumer is king, and where money is controlled by millions of families, not a few self-interested corporate or political apparatchiks. When buying insurance, goods and services, millions of American families with money from wages, savings or a safety-net public program are wiser than a few apparatchiks. That’s true in every other microeconomic sector; why not medicine?
Dr. Robert W. Geist, North Oaks
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The Jan. 4 article on the disparity of surgery costs (“Surgery costs get rare reveal”) highlighted a topic that Time magazine addressed in 2013. At that time, the magazine — for the first (and only) time in its history — featured one topic only by one reporter only. That man’s name is Steven Brill, and he wrote a comprehensive story about how costs are assigned by each medical institution using something called the “chargemaster” to determine what should be charged. The article was called “Bitter pill: Why medical bills are killing us” (tinyurl.com/Brill-medical-bills), and it’s a shockingly eye-opening story about why some are charged very little while others pay much more and how those costs are decided. The bottom line is that our medical care needs an overhaul or, as Brill more succinctly said it: “Put simply, the bills tell us that this is not about interfering in a free market. It’s about facing the reality that our largest consumer product by far — one-fifth of our economy — does not operate in a free market.”
Janet Stahlberg Hammer, Minneapolis
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After reading “Surgery costs get rare reveal”, I tried to find out what my well-known Twin Cities clinic charged for a basic flu shot. It wasn’t on the clinic’s website, nor did the person at the front desk know. After being transferred to a “pricing specialist” at their headquarters, and waiting over 10 minutes, I was read a disclaimer for more than a minute and told it was only an estimate. The same thing happened last year!
For more than 30 years, we’ve been told to be wise health care consumers by employers and insurance companies, yet we can’t readily compare the price of a flu shot, much less a normal baby delivery. It’s clear our clinics and hospitals don’t want us to compare — or to ask why it costs $1,113 to draw some blood samples (“The truth about out-of-pocket medical costs”).
The health care industry has ignored the consumer for decades. Nothing will change until corporate leaders demand it from our political and health care leaders. I’m not holding my breath, are you?
Steve Korngable, Eagan
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
Change is needed at the top
Why do University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler and the Board of Regents keep getting free passes when periodic and frequent sexual-misconduct scandals happen in the Department of Athletics? (“U defends its handling of allegations against Lynch,” Jan. 6.) Kaler has, over and over, expressed outrage and promised change in response to these embarrassing and demoralizing scandals. As a taxpayer and a fan of U athletics, I am becoming desensitized and have almost come to expect these periodic embarrassments. A sad state of affairs indeed. I don’t hear similar stories at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Iowa or any other Big Ten university with the frequency and seriousness that I do at our “beloved” University of Minnesota. It’s time for some wholesale, and I mean wholesale, changes.
Tim Newlin, Taylors Falls, Minn.
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The Jan. 6 Q&A “What’s known, what lies ahead in the Lynch case” focused mostly on Lynch and whether or not he gets to play a game. Where is the Q&A attempting to explain what lies ahead for the victim? Here are some questions I would ask: How does it feel to be called a liar? How will you deal with the inevitable angry backlash you will receive if your name becomes public? How has your sense of safety been compromised? How will this affect your ability to trust? Can you heal from this experience, and, if so, how many years will it take?
Sal Bruggeman, St. Paul
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I don’t know if Reggie Lynch is innocent or guilty of sexual misconduct. But it should be examined whether racism is involved in his situation. Care should be taken that Lynch not be a victim of systemic racism. Care should be taken that he not become another victim of the schools-to-prison pipeline of black males.
Unfortunately, this situation looks too much like he is being treated with the presumption of guilt. Star white athletes rarely get accused, though they are as likely as star black athletes to act improperly. Star white players, when they are accused, are more likely to be allowed to have the process play itself out before they face sanctions. University of Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle, the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action and all of you: Consider not just the long history of mistreatment of women by men, but also consider the long history of racial bias. Your judgment, your keeping him off the team before his appeal is completed, could be clouded by your implicit bias. This is also a very important issue you should be taking into consideration as you process the accusation.
Paul Rozycki, Minneapolis
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
You know you see it, too
The two letter writers published Jan. 6 represent only two of three possible opinions on the veracity of Michael Wolff’s report from inside the White House: that he is not to be believed or that both he and Trump are liars so it’s your choice. The third opinion is that Wolff is basically correct in his book “Fire and Fury,” and this is the most logical conclusion to reach.
The evidence is threefold: Few of the quoted opinion holders of President Donald Trump’s incompetence have come out denying it — for instance, Steve Bannon has apologized for his opinions instead of denying them. Wolff has notes and tapes in good journalistic fashion (undoubtedly a reason for the few public denials noted). Most important, using our own eyes and ears to review videos, audios and Trump tweets, we can use sober logic to interpret this unrelenting storm of incompetent and self-centered communication to draw the obvious conclusion. The evidence is overwhelming. That is, unless one chooses to ignore it or blame the messenger to a degree not seen in modern America (but that did happen in several modern, well-documented instances of the march toward awful autocracy and dictatorships).
David Paulson, Minnetonka
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Shortly after the release of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” charitable organizations and sellers of used books were deluged with copies people read and then wanted to abandon. Some entities received 20 to 30 copies a day and ended up building forts, neatly arranging the books to create solid and stylish structures. I am thinking a similar dumping phenomenon will likely occur with “Fire and Fury.” Instead of deluging small nonprofits and for-profits, perhaps people could send them to the federal government. Given the book’s physical size, as well as the numbers sold, surely there will be enough to build out a significant section of that border wall Trump wants so badly.
Julie Risser, Edina
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Trump says he is “a very stable genius,” and President Richard Nixon said, “I am not a crook.” Huh?
Johnny Hagen, Minneapolis