Health insurance nightmare, Israel and Palestine, political leadership

Opinion Editor’s Note: The Star Tribune expresses its opinion letter Feedback comes daily from readers online and in print.To contribute, click here.


I was delighted to read this article chronicling Mark Christensen’s battle with a denied medical claim (“Care is critical. He had insurance. The hospital charged him $155,493”, 10 July 28). I’m not happy for Christensen, but I’m happy for the Star Tribune for bringing this topic to public attention. What the public may not realize is that such denials are not uncommon, but rather common. They cause unnecessary anxiety for patients and health care providers. They increase costs for the healthcare system and often lead to delays in treatment. Eventually, denials are usually overturned, as was the case with Christensen.

I am an orthopedic surgeon at TRIA and specialize in hip and knee replacement surgery. I frequently handle situations where payers deny surgical preauthorization. These denials take away my time when I should be caring for my patients, not calling for baseless denials. I have never failed in denial. So why do payers continue to waste time and money denying the facts, only to receive so little support in the end? Because they do so with impunity. When the denial is overturned, they only pay for the services they would have otherwise paid. As a solution, I would suggest that if the denial is subsequently overturned, the payer would be subject to some kind of financial penalty. For example, if the overturned claim required an increase in compensation (perhaps $200,000, for example), Empire BlueCross Blue Shield might think twice about denying Christensen’s claim.

Paul Johnson, Eden Prairie


On November 7, the Star Tribune published a story about Bright Health and its claims-handling “errors” (“Bright Health fined for claims errors”). I think anyone reading this article will believe that Bright Health deliberately avoided paying its share of the claims. Two thoughts on this. First, Bright Health executives should be held accountable for this unacceptable behavior.

Second: The goal of all health insurance companies is to minimize claims payouts in order to increase their profits. This behavior exposes sick patients to the double jeopardy of falling ill and also risking financial disaster if their insurance company denies their claim for payment. Why do we allow insurance companies to decide which claims are valid? In our public safety system, police, prosecutors and judges are all independent of each other to prevent conflicts of interest. When a person becomes ill and a doctor orders tests or treatment, insurance companies should not be allowed to practice medicine by deciding whether care is appropriate. There is a clear conflict of interest for the insurance company to serve as the arbiter of the amount to be paid. There should be a completely independent process to oversee whether doctors are providing appropriate care and to resolve disputes over claims. Insurance companies are not allowed to deny claims from properly licensed doctors, hospitals and clinics.

Mark Brack, Coon Rapids

The author is a doctor.

israel and palestine

I’m a 71-year-old man who grew up in the Twin Cities.

Last week I had an experience I never imagined. I left my home and drove to a home across the street from Lake of the Islands to thank Rep. Angie Craig for her vote to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib for intentionally using the phrase “river to ocean” in her speech. As a euphemism for the total destruction of the state of Israel and the Jewish people (“Craig votes for Tlaib denunciation,” Nov. 9).

When I arrived home, a large truck was parked in the street and several protesters held microphones and chanted anti-Israel slogans and support for Palestine. As I entered the home, there was a civil discussion between those who were disappointed with the congresswoman’s vote and others who, like me, supported her vote.

I left the event and on the front steps I was met by protesters who were literally blocking my way with their microphones in my face, screaming obscenities. They followed me all the way to my car.

I later discovered that I didn’t feel fear, only rage and rage. Then I thought about what might happen if they knew I was Jewish.

My experience has nothing to do with the sympathy many of us have for the Palestinian people. What I experienced was the utter hatred and anti-Semitism unleashed by Hamas’ horrific attacks on Israel and the Jewish people.

Angie Craig, thank you for your moral clarity and for standing up to the hateful rhetoric of elected officials in the United States Congress.

Barry L. Ross, “Minnetonka”


Adversaries and supporters involved in current conflicts in the Middle East must address both of these issues.

  1. Do Israelis have the right to exist as a sovereign, independent state with defensible borders and access to the sea?
  2. Do Palestinians have the same rights?

The killing will continue until there is a universal “yes” to both questions.

Robert J. Krueger, Bloomington


As I get older, I become increasingly frustrated with people’s lack of critical thinking skills and media literacy. Why do people take problems at face value instead of stopping and saying, “This can’t be possible; I’m missing information” and asking questions to learn more? When we see Colin Kaepernick take a knee, people mistakenly assume his message is disrespectful to our military, rather than understanding what his protest actually is. People hear “Black Lives Matter” and think that means black lives matter more, or that people of other colors don’t matter, instead of looking to the voices that originated the movement to understand what their message really means and why they do explain. Today, we have the same twisted assumptions about Palestinian freedom. If you can’t see colonialism, apartheid and genocide happening right in front of us, it’s time to pause and start looking for Palestinian voices – voices I don’t see enough in this article, but found elsewhere .

Danielle Durda, Ridgefield

political leader

Where have all the leaders gone? I am 72 years old. I retired after 43 years with the federal government. I am a married parent of four and grandparent of nine. I worry about the future of our country.

We just completed another election cycle. The only thing that is certain is that we have lost our way. There are two sides, no compromise. It’s a world of all or nothing, my way or the highway. There is little honest political speech. Everything is accusatory, inflammatory, and abusive. This madness has become the norm.

And our so-called leaders remain silent, while Republican candidates continue to fight, leading candidates continue to cajole in every courtroom, and our president continues to dally with declining approval ratings.

So far, only U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips has made a valiant effort to lead us to a more electable candidate. Republican leadership has ignored this chaotic mess, apparently hoping that things will resolve themselves without leadership having to address the elephant in the room, which is Donald Trump.

Where are the leaders who can solve the problems on both sides and provide us with viable alternatives that will lead us toward a more hopeful future? Is there anyone willing to show the way for this country? We don’t have much time.

Kathy Meinhardt, Bloomington

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