Letters to the Editor

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January 1, 2012

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To the editor:

I’m visiting Lawrence for the holiday and felt compelled to write a response to the article by Karrey Britt (Dec. 26) on the book written by a radiologist, I hope readers of his book will be cautious with what they believe. He espouses tort reform, but that must be weighed against compelling evidence published in major medical journals that between 14 percent and 21 percent of hospitalized patients are harmed by serious, preventable adverse events.

Our country’s problem of high infant mortality, low life expectancy and inordinate medical costs per person are not myths. Our infant mortality and life expectancy are ranked about 40th among nations of the world. Our medical costs per person are double that of most developed nations. We have a failed health care industry by almost any objective measure.

The solution is not less government regulation, as the radiologist supposes. All medical systems that deliver better, less-expensive medical care than the United States do so under thoughtful, relatively efficient government regulation.

Unfortunately, Medicare and Medicaid leaders have lacked the courage to refuse to pay doctors and hospitals for procedures that have no benefit for patients. For example, it was not until January 2009 that Medicare quit paying doctors when they operated on the wrong patient. Furthermore, we have no standardized electronic medical record system as most other developed countries have. If we had this, the radiologist’s complaint about too much paperwork would be solved. The real solution to our health care woes is to better engage patients in their care so that they can purchase safe health care as informed consumers.

Comments

bearded_gnome 3 years, 6 months ago

except that people who can afford it choose to come here for the best treatment. and, here is where the best medical research usually happens.

that is not britain with its socialized medicine, and a national dental crisis.

Peter Macfarlane 3 years, 6 months ago

How did the UK get into this conversation?

bearded_gnome 3 years, 6 months ago

socialized medicine, that's how.

if people pay "nothing" for their healthcare, it becomes far oo expensive and too inefficient.

Peter Macfarlane 3 years, 6 months ago

You lost me there. How does it become more expensive and inefficient?

Shelley Bock 3 years, 6 months ago

You are obviously dealing with past concepts and lack understanding about the British system. You need to talk with the Brits. I have. Like many people, they always complain about their health care, but are generally satisfied. And, that includes dental care.

ivalueamerica 3 years, 6 months ago

what you think and what is reality are far apart.

Surveys very clearly show that most westernized nations with socialized health care have far greater appreciation for their health care than we do here and much more access than we do here.

Again, as elitist continue offering false information such as choice or death panels, 45 million Americans are uninsured.

Claiming there is a crisis in Britain without it actually being true makes you just another in a long line of people who are unable to make their claims honestly.

snitty 3 years, 6 months ago

Spot-on common sense, unlike the politically driven stale talking points of the book.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

Improved Medicare Single Payer Insurance for All is one substantial part of the solution.

  • Easy to Implement: Medicare has been in existence since 1966, it provides healthcare to those 65 and older, and satisfaction levels are high. The structure is already in place and can be easily expanded to cover everyone.

  • Simple: One entity – established by the government – would handle billing and payment at a cost significantly lower than private insurance companies. Private insurance companies spend about 31% of every healthcare dollar on administration. Medicare now spends about 3%.

  • Real Choice: An expanded and improved Medicare for All would provide personal choice of doctors and other healthcare providers. While financing would be public, providers would remain private. As with Medicare, you choose your doctor, your hospital, and other healthcare providers.

  • State and Local Tax Relief: Medicare for All would assume the costs of healthcare delivery, thus relieving the states and local governments of the cost of healthcare, including Medicaid, and as a result reduce State and local tax burdens.

  • Expanded coverage: Would cover all medically necessary healthcare services – no more rationing by private insurance companies. There would be no limits on coverage, no co-pays or deductibles, and services would include not only primary and specialized care but also prescription drugs, dental, vision, mental health services, and long-term care.

  • Everyone In, Nobody Out: Everyone would be eligible and covered. No longer would doctors ask what insurance you have before they treat you.

  • No More Overpriced Private Health Insurance: Medicare for All would eliminate the need for private health insurance companies who put profit before healthcare, unfairly limit choice, restrict who gets coverage, and force people into bankruptcy.

  • Lower Costs: Most people will pay significantly less for healthcare. Savings will be achieved in reduced administrative costs and in negotiated prices for prescription drugs.

http://www.healthcare-now.org/

Liberty275 3 years, 6 months ago

"Improved Medicare"

A pig wearing a bow is still a pig. Medicare is garbage

Sunny Parker 3 years, 6 months ago

Copy and pasting I see. Who do you expect is going to pay for your govt ran health care for all Merrill?

Jeff Zamrzla 3 years, 6 months ago

If you're a veteran or a reservist, you already have socialist medical care. If you have medicare or medicaid, you have socialist medical care. If you pay into a company health plan, you have a smaller scale socialist health care plan. If you pay into social security or a railroad retirement, you have a socialist retirement fund. The same can be said for most things we combine our money and treasure to fund. Whether that be roads, bridges, Police, Fire, water or waste water, we all do better when we all pull together. There will always be those who complain and whine incessantly about having to be drug along, but they are children in grownup bodies.

Socialism isn't the bogeyman, people who don't research and post blindly out of bigotry, hate or stupidity are.

"He that will not reason is a bigot; he that cannot reason is a fool; he that dares not reason is a slave." — William Drummond of Hawthornedenne (13 December 1585 – 4 December 1649), Scottish poet.

parrothead8 3 years, 6 months ago

It's not possible to live as you wish to live..."to be left alone, and to leave others alone." Like it or not, your choices about how to live affect me, and vice versa. If you choose to smoke, you affect my health with your secondary smoke. If you choose to drive a vehicle, you pollute my air, water, and soil (which, in turn, affect my health.) If you choose to eat poorly and wind up with more healthcare costs than you and your insurance can cover, guess who gets stuck with the bill?

It is rather sad that a grownup doesn't understand that his/her decisions, even when leaving others alone, have effects on others.

Jeff Zamrzla 3 years, 6 months ago

Seems I've hit a nerve with you "Liberty_One." What one sees as 'grown-up' others see as selfish, childish behavior that needs corrected. Maybe after you realize it would be better if you just quit whining, shut up and let the adults run things. But I understand, temper tantrums seem to run wild amongst the immature.

Jeff Zamrzla 3 years, 5 months ago

You prove my point. Consider this: "This is Democratic bedrock: we don't let people lie in the ditch and drive past and pretend not to see them dying. Here on the frozen tundra of Minnesota, if your neighbor's car won't start, you put on your parka and get the jumper cables out and deliver the Sacred Spark that starts their car. Everybody knows this. The logical extension of this spirit is social welfare and the myriad government programs with long dry names all very uninteresting to you until you suddenly need one and then you turn into a Democrat. A liberal is a conservative who's been through treatment." Garrison Keillor, Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America.

Peacemaker452 3 years, 5 months ago

Consider these:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. C. S. Lewis

A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money. G. Gordon Liddy

It is not the responsibility of the government or the legal system to protect a citizen from himself. Justice Casey Percell

I believe that every individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruits of his labor, so far as it in no way interferes with any other men’s rights. Abraham Lincoln

Liberty275 3 years, 6 months ago

"If you're a veteran or a reservist, you already have socialist medical care."

Lie.

I'm a veteran and we pay for our insurance through my wife's employer's) a private company) group. I get ZERO health care nor any benefit for the serving this country other than a headstone and maybe a flag when I keel over

"He that will not reason is a bigot; he that cannot reason is a fool"

He that lies is a liar.

jafs 3 years, 6 months ago

You don't get health care provided by the VA as a benefit of having served in the military?

Perhaps you're choosing to buy other insurance instead, but I can't imagine why you wouldn't qualify for VA care.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 6 months ago

It's now the law that if you have health insurance from a private company, you are required to report that to the VA so they can bill your health insurance company for the health care that you receive from them.

That is relatively new, so it is perhaps not well known.

There is also a means testing applied for non service connected health care, so whether or not you qualify for free health care depends upon your income.

If you are of limited means, take your DD214 and go to the nearest VA hospital and sign up as soon as possible. There are no fees at all if you cannot afford to pay.

But defiantly take care of the paperwork the first chance you get and get a VA patient data card, so that if an emergency arises you won't have to worry about that.

After you have the VA patient card, all you need to do is get to the hospital door and you will be taken care of.

For more information:
http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/cost/insurance.asp

Jeff Zamrzla 3 years, 6 months ago

Okay, we've established that you are one of the people who posts blindly without knowing what they're talking about. If your a vet, you can go to the VA for healthcare, that is unless you have a Bad Conduct or Dishonorable Discharge. It will tell you right there on your DD-214, if you have one. Research it before calling someone a liar.

Peacemaker452 3 years, 6 months ago

Wow, did you read the information supplied? A veteran does not get free health care from the VA unless it is directly related to a service connected disability or the veteran can prove they meet the means testing criteria. It is evidently a common misconception that all veterans get free health care for the rest of their lives. Quit posting “blindly without knowing what they're talking about”.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 6 months ago

You left out retired military personnel, they get free health care from the VA also.

And, being on a VA disability pension is all the proof you need. If you're on a non service connected disability, which requires being disabled and also having served during wartime, they never means test you.

They don't need to, because they don't give you enough money for that to ever become an issue.

Peacemaker452 3 years, 5 months ago

Retired military personnel (who do not have a disability) DO NOT get free health care from the VA. Even if they have a disability rating, the VA only covers that condition, not all health care in general.

Please stop talking about subjects that you obviously don’t know anything about.

Military retirees have insurance that is very similar to what many companies offer. The basic plan is at no additional cost, better coverage comes with premiums.

As a military retiree, I will go on record and say that we “paid” for our health care in advance.

Jeff Zamrzla 3 years, 5 months ago

I agree that we pay for our healthcare in advance. I was given a medical retirement form the USMC in 1976 after I recovered sufficiently from my accident in 1974. Almost immediately after my separation from active duty I sought help at the VA. Things were much different then and because i was medically retired, I didn't qualify to be seen at a VA hospital, I had to travel either to Ft Riley, Ft Leavenworth or go to McConnell AFB for medical help. Once I had established my eligibility at the VA, (it took almost two years back then) I was able to be seen for SC reasons. That was expanded to include all care in the 1990's and I needn't visit a DOD installation for care.

Jeff Zamrzla 3 years, 5 months ago

Um, I am a 100% SC disabled vet, so I do know the law, regulations and quirks of the VA. I came by my disability courtesy of the USMC in 1974. It became severe enough that I was no longer able to work in 2004, so I have been on all sides of the question. There are co-pays required for medications if your rated under 50%, which I was until 2004. There are insurance co-pays as well, but no veteran is turned away now that Bush is gone. It was his policy that turned away priority group 8 (the lowest) veterans, not congress or VA policy.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 6 months ago

To see if you qualify for health care from the VA, click on this link and answer a very few questions:

http://www.va.gov/healtheligibility/Library/tools/Quick_Eligibility_Check/

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 6 months ago

After you have a VA patient card to present it is good at any of the over 170 VA hospitals and 400 outpatient clinics across the nation. There is no wait for processing or any questions, with one swipe of the card you are admitted, and then you are in.

And, all of the doctors at any of them can instantly retrieve all of the health care information about all of the health procedures that the VA has done for you. In that respect, the VA health care system is light years ahead of the private system.

And, if the particular VA hospital cannot provide you with the services you need in a timely fashion, they will refer to to a hospital that can, and pay the bill for you.

But, you need to go to a VA hospital first and request health care there.

WoodsideParkBob 3 years, 6 months ago

We'd all save money with something like Medicare for All. Private insurance companies spend about a third of our premiums on overhead and profit. Medicare only spends about 3 percent in overhead. That leaves about 30 percent to pay for care of the uninsured and better care for everyone for the same money we are spending now.

Jeff Zamrzla 3 years, 5 months ago

I do believe it, but then, I'm not the birther or truther type. I don't think government is the problem, I think people who believe government is the problem being elected or appointed to run the government are the problem. Kinda like letting the Nostradamus believing fools continue to wow you with their spot on 'after the event happens' prognostication. Both are self-fulfilling prophecies where none exist by rational and logical thinking people.

Jeff Zamrzla 3 years, 5 months ago

Logic? Where did you learn your critical thinking skillset there LOL? From watching faux nues?

Cant_have_it_both_ways 3 years, 6 months ago

The real solution to our health care woes is to better engage patients in their care so that they can purchase safe health care as informed consumers. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The key word it purchase. If you want quality health care, go get a job and pay for it yourself.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

With the unemployment rate rising, real incomes for working folks falling, and healthcare costs and insurance rates going through the roof, such pollyannaish prescriptions really don't cut it.

Liberty275 3 years, 6 months ago

If my dr had better informed me he was going to drill a hole in my knee, I might not have had the surgery that will probably keep me from be crippled at 60.

I can barely watch the video because it hurts too much unless the Vicodin is hitting it's peak serum level. OUCH!

Sunny Parker 3 years, 6 months ago

It's much easier to have someone else pay for your food, housing, healthcare, cell phone, and education.

jayhawkinsf 3 years, 6 months ago

If we outlaw fast food and mandate one hour of exercise every day (and then enforce those), our need for health care would drop by half, at least. All those unemployed doctors and nurses can become french fry police.

situveux1 3 years, 6 months ago

The US tends to have a high infant mortality rate because we have a very advanced health care system that delivers very premature children that other countries wouldn't be able to deliver.

I agree with more computerized medical records, but they bring another set of problems not experienced before. And just because you move charting to a computer doesn't mean it takes any less time.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

"The US tends to have a high infant mortality rate because we have a very advanced health care system that delivers very premature children that other countries wouldn't be able to deliver."

Source? And why is the rate higher than many other advanced countries that can also deliver premature babies?

tomatogrower 3 years, 6 months ago

Do those very premature children get counted as infant mortality?

tomatogrower 3 years, 6 months ago

Sorry, I need to be more clear. Do the very premature children in other countries not get counted in the infant mortality rate? I would think they would have to be delivered one way or another.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 6 months ago

"I agree with more computerized medical records, but they bring another set of problems not experienced before."

I have to wonder what those problems could possibly be. Your medical information going back for many years is available for the doctor's use in less than a split second, and can be charted and graphed in a chart that goes back for over a decade in any fashion that he chooses with a few keyclicks. It is an amazing thing to see!

Also, a complete list of all the medications and the dosages for each that you have taken for the last decade or more is right there for very quick viewing.

And, all if the notes that every doctor you have seen in the past decade or more are right there for quick and easy reading.

The only thing left out is - the doctor does not ever have to ask you any questions, which you would not be able to completely and accurately answer in less than 5 seconds anyway.


"And just because you move charting to a computer doesn't mean it takes any less time."

Only if the doctor is damn good with a slide rule, and can slow down the clock!

situveux1 3 years, 5 months ago

Well, like I said, I agree with computerized medical records, for just the reasons you outlined. But just because it's on a computer doesn't mean it's problem free.

For example, everyone thought e-scripts would ensure that miss filled prescriptions would be a thing of the past because everyone would be able to read what was prescribed. Well, that's true, but now we get e-scripts that simply don't make any sense.

For example, we got one the other day that said "Atenolol (50mg) 100mg PO daily" Well, how do you fill that? They make both a 50mg and 100mg tablet? So did they want them to have two 50mg tabs daily or one 100mg tab? Yea, it's all the same dosage, but if the patient has been taking one tablet and now all of the sudden is supposed to take two, it might confuse them. They might still only take one and only get half the dose. Then when they go back, the doc sees their BP is high and asks if they've been taking their meds, they say, yea, I take a tablet each day. So he goes up on the dose, or adds another med they not only don't need, but could harm them.

I think computerized medical records are good, but I think the public should be aware that they pose a new set of problems not dealt with before. When I have just a piece of paper, I can write exactly what I want. But when I have to send an e-script, the system sets many restrictions on what I can put on that script.

Well, that's just one example, there are many more. Electronic medical records are good and I think they need to be used more, but they are not problem free.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 5 months ago

It helps if you are able to read. The instructions on the bottles are very clear.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 5 months ago

Or, at least, they have always been on my scripts. I have not seen yours.

situveux1 3 years, 5 months ago

Well,I'm glad it's clear to you, but to many people, especially older people, it may not be clear.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 5 months ago

The instructions are VERY CLEAR. If you do not understand them, you are given the telephone number extension of a nurse to call in case you are confused.

And if that is still not enough, you are given instructions and the times to go see your doctor for a DIGMA meeting.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 5 months ago

But you are correct, nothing is ever going to be perfect. The thing that worries me the most is that many of the instructions on the medicine bottles and the disclaimers are in VERY small print, and are therefore very difficult for many people to read.

Also there is also the fact that the VA uses a bid system to procure the most inexpensive generic drugs whenever they are available. I have been quite shocked at how different in appearance the different pills of the same dosage are!

For example, my original Lisinopril (to lower blood pressure) medication was VERY small. When the refill arrived, it was much larger, and a dead ringer for my Welbutrin pills!

situveux1 3 years, 5 months ago

Unfortunately you're going to get that no matter where you get your meds. It's all about saving money and cutting costs.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 5 months ago

I just now counted the number of different medications that I take every day in order to live as normal of a life as possible. The number is eight. The doctor wanted to put me on another one also, but I refused because the side effects are horrible.

Some are to be taken during the day, and some are to be taken at night. I have to keep them all in a row, one row is for daytime, and the other row is for at nighttime.

And it is the damnedest thing - the pills very often look very different from the last time I got them. Sometimes I am to break them in half, other times not.

I very carefully arrange them when I receive them in order to avoid confusion, and I try to always read the labels as I take them out of the bottles to take them.

But I'm sure I've made mistakes in the past, that's why I try to reread what the bottles say every time I take them.

Most people will never understand what it's like to have to take that many medications just to stay on an even keel. The strange thing is - when I'm doing OK, I am perfectly normal in every respect. In fact, my psychiatrist assures me that when I'm doing well, I function at an amazingly high level.

But quite regularly problems arise, and I don't want to leave the house at all when that occurs. It makes keeping a job impossible.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 6 months ago

With the VA's computerized medical system, the first thing done is you have your blood drawn. About 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours later, the lab has the results ready for whatever the doctor ordered.

Then about 1 and 1/2 hours later, you talk to a nurse who takes your vitals, that is, your weight, heart rate, blood pressure, and asks you a few questions about your health concerns. And, also gives you your flu shot, if you consent.

Then, you wait about 10 to 15 minutes to talk to the doctor. Last time, he was a bit concerned with my blood pressure. So, he clicked the keyboard, and showed me a graph of what my systolic blood pressure had been measured at on many dates over the last ten years.

Sure, it went up and down, but the line representing my systolic pressure seemed to be centered at about 135. So, he recommended that I be put on a high blood pressure medication. That took about 30 seconds altogether.

Then, he looked at the graph of my LDL cholesterol, with many data points, again going back about ten years.

That seemed rather high also, so we discussed what changes I should consider making in my diet and exercise plans, and what medication might help. And then, a few keyclicks, and the prescription was on its way to me, no need to visit a pharmacist. That took about three or four minutes.

And then, I left. I had seen the doctor for less than 15 minutes for my physical, and everything had been covered.

And, I had only been in the hospital for a bit over 2 hours.

What if you need an electrocardiogram? I know from experience that from the time the doctor orders it to the time it's done is barely over an hour.

And a stress test of your heart? Get in line, and wait for 30 minutes. Then you are injected with a dye, and then you have to wait for about an hour. Then electrodes are attached to you, and you run on the treadmill under the supervision of the doctor.

Less than 2 hours later, you are done.

An X ray? That's done digitally on a computer, and takes about 20 minutes. And, it can be viewed at any of the over 170 VA hospitals later, should the need arise.

Without computerized medical records, how long do you think all those procedures would take?

And no one ever looked for, and then ran around with pieces of paper.

begin60 3 years, 6 months ago

Payments should be based on results! Mr. James makes some valid points. Medical incompetence is legion. It's very offensive that doctors in places like Lawrence act like they understand your body better than you do when they've spent all of five minutes considering test results. I definitely would trust reliable medical sites like the Mayo clinic over Kansas-educated physicians.

thebigspoon 3 years, 6 months ago

And just what is your job, begin60? Are you one who was trained at a world-class institution rather than a local or state-run school? What the hell makes KU Med Center any less "reliable" in some areas than Mayo in others? There is a great deal of stink in your comment, directed at the fine physicians and specialists who teach at, and are turned out by, state-sponsored medical schools in many states, INCLUDING Kansas.
You have very little understanding of the medical profession, as witnessed by your inane post here. Why don't you, on your next medical visit, tell your doctor you are begin60 and see if that makes any difference in the quality of your care. I think you'll find that your doctor will deliver the same high-quality care to you as to one who really appreciates--and deserves--such care.

camper 3 years, 6 months ago

I know several people who complain often about Socialized medicine and are worried that the US is becoming more and more socialized, yet they are the very ones who receive government benefits larger than most people and well above average. It is a form of denial of some sort.

Anyways, I am not afraid of socialized medicine for the most basic care for people of all ages. Advanced health care can be paid for by those who choose. Maybe then, costs will come down and you can fix a broken arm for a couple hundred bucks instead of 5 grand. Our current system is designed to give us way more advanced (and expensive) care than we really need. It is rigged in this way, and it is pricing many out of the system.

We need to get back to basic health care (not rocket science).

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 6 months ago

It costs less than $100 to have a female cat spayed. It is very rare for a cat to die while being spayed.

But the exact same procedure on a woman is called a hysterectomy, and usually costs at least $2,000.

camper 3 years, 6 months ago

Very costly procedures at hospitals provide top quality treatment for chronic and serious disease. This is all good. But the problem is, it all goes into hospital overhead and thus increases the cost of rather minor and preventative services. This is not so good, because it raises the cost on everything (ie $3 charge for an aspirin).

I just think we can have a broader health care system that provides the basics for everyone at a lower cost. It might not be as fancy, but it would be more accesible to all.

Sunny Parker 3 years, 6 months ago

Good thing the govt mandates these kids can stay on parents health insurance coverage until they are 26 years old and adults themselves.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 6 months ago

I've seen a lot of people that were a lot older than 26 that were obviously still children.

deec 3 years, 6 months ago

It is indeed a good thing, for young adults who have serious, life threatening diseases and conditions. If someone is too ill to work and doesn't have in enough social security quarters logged to qualify for disability, staying on parents' insurance keeps them alive.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 6 months ago

But, SSI is still available if you don't have enough Social Security quarters to qualify, but it can take a very long time to get approved. Then, Medicaid will cover the cost, if you can find medical providers that accept it.

Being able to stay on your parent's medical insurance hopefully will be long enough to cover that gap in coverage.

Bob Forer 3 years, 6 months ago

My sister married a Canadian and now enjoys dual citizenship. She has lived in Canada for over 20 years, and at age 60, has decades of experience dealing with both the Canadian and American health care systems. In her opinion, the Canadian public health system is far superior. And she used to be a republican, and probably still would if she lived in the States. Those of you who write off "health care for all" as evil "socialized medicine" simply reveal your ignorance.

jafs 3 years, 5 months ago

When my wife and I visited Canada, we spent several hours talking to a couple, who were both doctors, and who had practiced in both countries.

Their thumbnail sketch of the systems was that if you had a lot of money, you could do better in the US, but if not, you would do better in Canada.

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