Lee Schafer, in his Dec. 30 column, "Self-help lesson: Don't blame yourself for retirement savings shortfalls," says that it's wrong to blame people for financial misfortunes that befall them. I agree. But Schafer then goes on to say that because so many people aren't on track to save enough for retirement, it must be because our retirement finance system "seems broken beyond any hope of repair." There is a difference between experiencing unexpected financial setbacks such as a job loss or major medical expenses, and simply failing to adequately save and invest for retirement. Americans can and should do better at saving for retirement. We spend so much money on coffee, cigarettes, liquor, eating out at restaurants, sporting events and concerts, vacations, second homes, cars, boats, cable TV, smartphones, massages, etc. We could redirect some of the money that we're allocating to luxuries to retirement savings. And, if we did, we'd be better off. Financial advice columns should encourage people to do the right thing despite the fact that "the world is hard."

James Brandt, New Brighton

Five responses to '12 pertinent elements of constructive reform'

State Sen. Scott Jensen's "12 pertinent elements of constructive health care reform" (Opinion Exchange, Dec. 30) was one of the most clearheaded and pragmatic perspectives I have seen on health care for some time. It is heartening to see he is an experienced practitioner and a member of the Minnesota Senate, where hopefully he can garner enough support for his thesis to create some valuable legislation. One can only hope his experienced voice and pragmatic views can survive the murderers' row of special-interest lobbyists, PACs and political combatants that must be overcome. Godspeed!

David J. Wick, Eden Prairie
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I disagree with Jensen's plan to form a government committee to regulate drug prices but not to regulate HMOs. Until HMOs are held accountable for what they do with taxpayer money that is supposed to deliver health care to the working poor, nothing will ever change.

We do not need another government committee serving HMOs. We need a government committee to do its job of overseeing accountability of taxpayer money.

Amber Garlan, St. Paul
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I agree with Jensen that Minnesota must make health care prices transparent. Earlier this year, he joined about 70 other legislators in a bipartisan initiative demanding comprehensive and accurate disclosure on the expenses in Minnesota's Medical Assistance program. The HMOs in Minnesota currently operate the Medical Assistance program, yet the billions of tax funds they annually handle have never been properly audited. The bipartisan initiative aimed to get a proper audit on those funds, allowing taxpayers to finally get the transparent accounting they are legally owed — but, curiously, neither Sen. Jensen nor the other legislators have followed through on that initiative. Could fear of HMO power to undermine their political careers be the reason that accountability on the HMOs continues to be unenforced by our state government? Yes. Minnesota officials would rather be re-elected than safeguard us Minnesotans from out-of-control corporate oppressors.

Diane J. Peterson, White Bear Lake
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Jensen's list of 12 elements completely omits the elephant in the room: insurance companies. As a solo practitioner in Minnesota, my biggest overhead was dealing with the denials, appeals and paperwork they demanded. It is even illegal in Minnesota to communicate with them using the U.S. mail, forcing me to use a cumbersome and expensive electronic system. To meet these costs, I have to raise my rates, hoping to break even. For me, the solution is to either leave the state or go to a cash-only model and leave the paperwork up to the patient.

Dr. Todd Holmes, Edina
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Here is the one missing piece of the puzzle that most of these efforts lose sight of — you are missing the forest for the trees. Don't call health insurance health care — it's not health care. I don't want health insurance — I want access to health care! I don't want to be told what doctor I can see when, and I don't want to pay for the incredible overhead and risk aversion of health insurance companies. I also don't want to participate in the sheer folly of becoming an expert in health insurance so I can make sure I'm getting the best deals or being covered for something that might happen.

Health insurance is like any casino these days — there is no risk to the insurance company. The odds are in favor of the house, the game always changes, and it never gets cheaper. If we were to concentrate solely on providing the act of health care and get rid of health insurance, we could focus on the costs of providing that care, how to be most efficient providing care, and how to roll the money tied up in insurance into curing disease and providing health care for all citizens. But as long as our elected officials equate health care with health insurance (which it most certainly is not), we will never move forward as a developed country, and the huge lobby of insurance companies will continue to direct how we receive health care.

Call it socialized medicine if you like; that is a scare tactic to divert the conversation away from what really matters — being treated by health care professionals when you need it regardless of social standing or wealth.

Mark Dunnett, Lakeville

First, apparently, we must suffer the fools of political analysis

I think it's funny that in handicapping the Democratic Party hopefuls for a presidential run ("Seeding the Democrats' prospects for 2020," Dec. 30), Albert R. Hunt of Bloomberg News places our own U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar in the "Diversity" category, almost as an afterthought, since apparently she can't be placed in any of these others: Insider, Liberal or Outsider. That there is even a "Diversity Bracket" suggests that we are still wedded to identify politics (a failing strategy) and that even in that category, there was absolutely nothing to say about any of these candidates other than what (I imagine) makes them diverse.

Dennis Williams, Minneapolis

There are good ones and bad ones, and this was a bad one

The Dec. 30 article regarding Friends of Mayowood's efforts to preserve an important cultural asset ("With mansion in good hands, friends bid farewell") appropriately recognized a fine community effort. However, the article ended with a most unfortunate analogy, with a member of the group's board comparing the decision to disband following the Mayo Clinic's assumption of ownership of the home to a birth mother's decision to make an adoption plan for her child. There is simply no comparison, and to suggest that there is trivializes, however unintentionally, a profound and deeply difficult decision. Homes are not children. And volunteer groups are not birth mothers. Language like this is hurtful to birth parents and adopted children, and is all too prevalent.

Barb Naramore, Eagan

Cartooning advances, declines

My high and low for 2018: High — Star Tribune editorial cartoonist Steve Sack, who has been on medical leave, is better. Low — the downsizing (literally) of the Sunday comics.

Kate DuPont, Minneapolis