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Thank you for your eye-opening article describing Mark Christensen’s surprising denial of insurance for life-saving care (“Care is critical. He had insurance. The hospital charged him $155,493” , front page, October 28). His experience is all too common and unique to the United States among developed countries. Only here do patients have to endure first serious illness and then the threat of financial ruin.
How is it different from other developed countries? They have a national health care plan that covers everyone. Does this mean they endure low-quality care? Won’t. Their citizen satisfaction is high, and their public health outcomes are better. Best of all, they each cost about half as much as we did.
One quote from the article is particularly telling, Alina states that “the complexity of the billing process leads to miscommunication between hospitals and health insurance companies.” While this doesn’t cover every mistake that is made, it does point out Useless, wasteful complexity that increases the cost of our system that relies on private insurance companies. Hospitals must hire troops to handle complex billings from multiple insurance companies, each with different requirements and different rates negotiated with them. Insurers also employ armies to process claims, on the lookout for claims that might be denied on technicalities.
Consider how much staff time was wasted at Allina hospitals that seemed to sincerely support Christensen to Imperial Blue Cross Blue Shield. Also, consider the resources BlueCross wasted determining whether a claim should be denied, only to overturn itself to avoid public backlash and embarrassment.
Mark Friedman, Mankato
Saturday’s headlines were about a man who was billed more than $150,000 for critical care by his insurance company, which felt like PTSD déjà vu to us. In early 2022, a few months after one of us had surgery, we opened a letter from our insurance company and saw a $40,000 explanation of benefits in the “Patient Responsibility” column. We had good insurance through our employer and the weeks leading up to the surgery included testing and consultation with the medical team, who assured us they had notified the insurance company about this medically necessary surgery. So we assumed some kind of clerical error had occurred and called our insurance company to have it corrected.
The agent who answered the phone was polite but assured us the statement was correct. She explained that this type of surgery is covered, but only with prior authorization. We asked, how do we know this requirement? Well, this is usually handled by the provider, but the insurance company didn’t receive the documentation, so we’re stuck with the bill. She said the experience will help us understand the situation better next time so the same thing doesn’t happen again. Have a great day.
After weeks of stress and worry, we finally resolved the issue with our insurance company – which is Anthem, a division of the same company that also serves as the insurance company for the gentleman mentioned in the article. Maybe that company is a particular problem, but our concern is whether the health insurance industry as a whole is moving in that direction. We had similar questions to him: How often do these situations happen? What if we don’t have the time or energy to deal with such unexpected troubles? How many more people are affected by these impacts but don’t have the resources to fight back?
Julie and Jeff Naylor, Minneapolis
DJ Tice’s excellent Oct. 29 column about Minnesota’s attempts to reach higher national office, “A Big Week in the Land of Political Also-Operators,” omitted our state’s first failed presidential candidate: Cushman. Cushman Davis served as governor from 1874 to 1876 and as a U.S. senator from 1887 to 1900. Davis announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in the spring of 1895 after gaining national attention in the Senate by denouncing railroad strikes and the “rising anarchy” in the country. Although he received some support nationally, he was overwhelmed by William McKinley’s popularity and his protectionist tariffs, and in March 1896, he spoke at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. withdrew his candidacy.
A man of many talents, Davis was also known for his work as a lawyer for railroad tycoon James J. Hill and for leaving his wife of 18 years in 1878, a charming Shakespeare scholar to whom he had been married for 20 years. And be remembered. Old tailor works at home.
To learn more about Davis and other Minnesota governors, check out the Ramsey County Historical Society’s podcast series “March of Governors” at tinyurl.com/march-of-governors.
Ken Peterson, St. Paul
Professor Emeritus Steven Schier’s comments on October 29 were deeply misleading (“Democrats are haunted by the ghosts of wounded incumbents from the past”). Even professors are at risk of being haunted by the ghost of a badly wounded analogy. Comparing Jimmy Carter’s situation in 1979 to Joe Biden’s situation in 2023, Schill wrote that “Carter faced high inflation” and “Biden faced inflation and widespread economic discontent.” If we use rounded figures, the inflation rate in 1979 was 13% and was rising from the previous year. The inflation rate in 2023 is 4%, down from 8% in 2022. So-called pocketbook concerns are top of mind for voters. As 2024 approaches, if wages continue to rise, if inflation continues to fall, and if Trump continues to ramp up his erratic behavior, Biden is likely to surpass Carter and win re-election.
Jim Bartos, Maple Grove
The letter to the editor, “Keeping Women Out of the Religion of Education Doesn’t Solve Anything” (October 24), denounced ancient religions for excluding women from “priestly” roles. It’s not stated, but those ancient religions were probably Judaism, Catholicism, and Islam. I can only speak from a Catholic perspective. “Just this month,” the letter’s author laments, “Catholic women are pleading with their male leaders to at least make them deacons…” No doubt she was referring to the October synod in Rome. Recently, Pope Francis has turned the ancient Catholic Church on its head with his novel approach on issues such as homosexuality, the ordination of women, and Catholic divorce and remarriage.
During his pontificate, Pope John Paul II spoke about the ordination of women (priests, deacons). He reiterated a 2,000-year-old continuity on the issue: the clergy, including deacons, will remain exclusively male. This is considered newer and inerrant teaching. In theology, deacons are equal to clergy but have a secondary status.
This long-standing teaching example is biblical and therefore cannot be changed. Christ chose 12 people from among his followers to be the original apostles. In imitation of Christ, the apostles chose only men to continue the ministry of the Christian faith (including deacons), as evidenced in the book of Acts. The Thirteenth Apostle Paul appointed Timothy and Titus (New Testament) as bishops, and Paul instructed them to ordain (only) worthy men.
The letter ends: “Is this really the intention of the omniscient Creator?” In the Catholic faith, the biblical answer is yes.
Daniel Pryor, Delano, Minnesota