What a brilliant commentary by Gary M. Johnson on private college pricing (“Are you the next contestant on ‘The Price is Right’?” May 13). I hope it gets wide circulation — and not just among higher-education circles.
I was a Minnesota private college trustee and later an admission and marketing professional. I am the parent of a college-bound high school senior. Figuring out college pricing from any one of those contexts proved to be among the most daunting challenges I have faced.
I am writing to both thank Mr. Johnson for his public service in taking the time to write such a well-reasoned article and also support his call for transparency. He is right: Marketing that masks the truth is not the solution. I like his suggestion that students, alumni and civic leaders join forces to try to untie this seeming impossible knot.
Ann Ness, Deephaven
HEALTH CARE COST TRANSPARENCY
Sounds great, but matters are very convoluted
D.J. Tice’s May 13 column “Want to know what health care costs? You may be in luck” made for interesting reading. You might assume that transparency would make for better decisions by consumers of health care. I don’t believe it would be as easy as that. Although publishing prices a clinic charges for the uninsured would be easy to compare, those prices have been artificially inflated to keep up with insurance companies’ negotiated discounts. This, of course, has a huge negative impact on the uninsured. As far as comparing what an insurance company pays for a procedure, this varies across all providers, with each insurance plan negotiating different contracts with individual providers. Even if you could have real-time pricing, that wart removal may be cheaper at clinic A, but a visit for hypertension may cost less at Clinic B. (I would like patients to know that the insurance companies pay far less to the small independent clinics than to the large systems, if they are wondering why the small clinics keep disappearing.)
Another issue is the perceived value of a medical service. The typical supply-and-demand feedback loop on prices does not really work with health care. I doubt patients want to go to the “cheapest” provider. People often feel that, for the best care, they should see expensive specialists, who typically order more tests, do more procedures and cost more money, without demonstrable better results. It is not the specialist’s fault, but it comes from their training as specialists. However, the marketing of health care by the large systems encourages this patient behavior. A new drug or procedure may show “significant” benefit over an established one, but the benefit may be an additional 1 percent improvement for a 50 percent price increase.
After 35 years as a practicing physician, I feel that the only way we can control our costs is not by patients chasing prices but by establishing some type of universal health care, with standard reimbursements, and letting patients/consumers decide their course based on service and outcome data.
Dr. David Brockway, Edina
The writer is a retired physician.
SCHOOL SHOOTING IN TEXAS
Lawmakers, you’ll act or you’re out
Any candidate who is running for the Senate or the House in 2018 had better start listening. We are not waiting; we are not asking; we are not hoping; we are not praying. We are voting. Ban assault-style weapons and require universal background checks for gun purchases. No more loopholes; no more NRA money; no more thoughts and prayers; no more nonsense about arming our teachers. If you won’t stop this craziness, you will be gone. If you don’t think that is the case, go ahead, do nothing. Make my day.
Mary Alice Divine, White Bear Lake
SENIOR-LIVING FACILITY CLOSING
How cruel to displace residents so quickly
I cannot begin to describe how sad and angry I am after learning of the closing of Earle Brown Terrace, a senior-living facility in Brooklyn Center (“Sudden closure upsets residents,” May 13). I guess I understand that business means “time is money.” Both the seller and buyer have no time to waste. However, I am truly aghast at the lack of thought, feeling and heart both seller and buyer are demonstrating.
I have no friends or family affected by this business deal, but I do have recent experience in searching for living space for parents — not just for living but for feeling safe, comfortable, cared for and “at home.”
Families do not have time in just a few weeks to research and tour other comparable sites, and certainly have no time to suffer and worry on a waiting list. Some of the Earle Brown Terrace residents may not even have a friend, relative or advocate to assist them. I don’t believe the current staff can truly understand the shock and life changes the residents face now. It seems to me the people are being treated as cargo to be crated up and moved.
The residents have been given until mid-June to leave. I hope the Brooklyn Center City Council will find it in their hearts to step in and suggest a more humane arrangement, at least leaving people in place for six months to a year. Please give them time to process and make decisions.
Johanna Mills, Brooklyn Center
Let us look inward and stop blaming Russia
The Russians did it! On May 13, there was a report about the Russians using Facebook to place ads in order to incite racial unrest in Minnesota related to the police shootings of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile. I have become very annoyed in putting this blame onto the Russians when the problem of police violence is clearly a problem we Americans have to solve.
Blaming Russia for our problems keeps us from the task of finding the real causes for police violence and political discord. Let us put the blame squarely onto where it belongs. It’s all of us. If we cannot look inward, we will fail as we have so far in solving these issues. We must starting asking these questions: Why do we have so much violence in our society? Why are we at constant war? Why can’t we provide quality education for all of our children? Why can we not have health care for everyone? Until we do, I see no hope for change.
Bill Habedank, Red Wing, Minn.