HEALTH INSURANCE

Insurer’s ads run counter to its actions

The day the article about Blue Cross came out (“Ads target barriers to good health,” May 20), I received a letter from the insurer, denying 100 percent of my annual preventive-care exam. I was shocked to learn that although I have been a longtime member with full preventive-care coverage and I have been seeing the same doctor for over 25 years, he is no longer a “network provider.” Even my doctor’s business manager had no idea why my claim had been denied.

Such a denial runs counter to everything we are trying to teach consumers — namely, how critically important it is to stay up to date on preventive care and to have a health care home with a trusted doctor.

Health plans have no problem raking people over the coals — my (thankfully healthy) family has paid as much as $1,200 a month for a $10,000 deductible policy, which we can ill afford (or afford to do without). If a health plan abruptly changes the rules of the game, shouldn’t it be held accountable for notifying members and doctors that it has done so?

Instead of the headline reading “Ads target barriers to good health,” perhaps “Blue Cross erects barriers to good health” would have been more appropriate.

Jean Hanvik, Burnsville

 

PHYSICIAN SHORTAGE?

There’s evidence to suggest that less is more

Although I welcomed Dr. Neil Shah’s counterpoint article (May 21) taking issue with the recent view that this country faces a physician shortage, I view the concept differently. Do we indeed have a shortage of physicians or do we have excessive medical care? The ACA (Obamacare) will serve to worsen a perceived physician shortage by encouraging more people to visit physicians they can now afford.

When I graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School (1953), my graduating class had 115 students. Because of the unsupported belief that the nation needed more doctors, the federal government financed additional medical schools, leading to a Minnesota class size of 240 students. When it became apparent that the large class compromised medical education quality, the federal funding was reduced, ending up with the current class of 170. Did these class-size gyrations make a difference in the health of the people? Not apparently. In fact, fewer physicians and, correspondingly, less medical care may improve the nation’s health. One example worth citing is the outstanding study by Harvard’s Atul Gawande (New Yorker, 2009) comparing Medicare expenditures in two almost identical Texas cities. One spent twice as many Medicare dollars, but the health of the people in both cities was identical.

What would be accomplished by solving the “shortage?” We would have more medical care and a worsening of health care cost inflation. The current economic system creates incentives to “do more,” a major factor in inflation. Recent medical articles promote the concept that “less is more.” The British National Health Service, financed in part with salaries for medical specialists, may be the only way to control health care cost inflation, and possibly create better health outcomes.

Dr. Seymour Handler, Edina

 

VA CARE

Those casting blame should look inward

How many of the grandstanders now calling for Gen. Eric Shinseki’s resignation as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs are the same people who had no problem when the Bush administration ridiculed Shinseki and pushed him into early retirement after he testified before a Senate committee that the proposed war in Iraq “would take several hundred thousand soldiers”?

The problems at the nation’s veterans’ hospitals are real and need to be addressed. However, my father, who left a Jesuit seminary to volunteer for World War II; my husband, a Vietnam vet, and I, a Vietnam-era antiwar protester, all agree: If those currently denouncing the abuses at various VA hospitals had put their time and energy into pushing back against unjustified wars, there would be far fewer veterans needing to be served.

Theresa J. Lippert, St. Paul

• • •

I have yet to hear anyone talk about staffing in VA hospitals. Are there enough nurses to care for the patients? How many physicians are available to see the patients, and how many specialists with the proper credentials? When we get these figures, we will be in a better position to make a judgment.

Ellen Wolfson, Minneapolis

 

SCHOOL LUNCHES

Kids will eat when they’re truly hungry

It is so hard to sympathize with all the political banter on getting the Minnesota school lunch program to an acceptable standard (“Rep. Kline moves to loosen new school lunch standards,” May 19). Any growing child who is ever truly hungry, even in our prosperous country, will eat most wholesome food choices at their schools. They are growing so fast that they are bound to balance out their food needs over time, with so much variety to choose from each week. Most doctors would probably even agree that forceful feeding is not a good practice.

The efforts of the volunteers for the Feed My Starving Children program offer a stark contrast, packing simple rice/soy dry meals for countries of very hungry children: Haiti, the Philippines, Central America and Africa, to name a few. As regular volunteers, we see many children’s’ groups volunteer for this effort, and they hear the stories of those in need and are able to sample the humble food they packed. This gives them an appreciation for what they have at school, and maybe even the incentive to eat their fruits and vegetables and minimize waste.

Michael Tillemans, Minneapolis

 

LEGAL SETTLEMENTS

One begins to wonder if they’re worth it

Thank you for the breakdown on the possible settlement against St. Paul to Clifton McWright ($42,000 settlement for St. Paul police search,” May 23). It confirms that the lawyer is the winner here. The person with the complaint gets about one-sixth of the total, with the attorney getting the rest. Boggles my mind, truly.

Christine Chambers, Shoreview