February 14, 2008
Re "Doctors balk at request for data," Feb. 12
The attempt by Blue Cross to enlist doctors as informants was an effort to prevent those sick enough to require coverage from getting it. This letter to doctors was only the latest of the insurance companies' tactics for denying care for preexisting conditions. Others have included retroactively dumping coverage after trumping up charges that a patient wasn't completely honest on an initial application, and leaving the patient holding the bill for treatment that the insurance company already promised to pay for.
Insurance companies say they're in the business of providing healthcare, but as stories like this indicate, often they make more profit by not providing care. At a minimum, the state should tell them that they can't use doctors to spy on their patients -- the doctor-patient relationship is far more important than an insurance company's profits.
The writer is healthcare advocate and staff attorney with the California Public Interest Research Group.
These are the people our politicians want to turn our healthcare over to? They will always be coming up with ways to maximize profits and minimize care. Health insurance is comforting to the healthy but too often useless to those who need it the most -- those who are seriously ill. Buying medical insurance is like going to Las Vegas -- the odds are against you.
This article made clear the lengths to which health insurance companies go to avoid paying for healthcare. First they sell policies to unsuspecting consumers. Then they work like the dickens to avoid paying for care. We delude ourselves if we believe that we do not have healthcare rationing in this country. This is but one example.
How much better off we would be if we had a sensible, single-payer national health plan in this country. Under such a plan, physicians, nurses and other providers would go on working in private settings, but the payment would come from a national entity, much like Medicare works today. The doctor or medical group would not have to maintain an enormous staff to negotiate with multiple insurance companies and plans, all with different rules and forms. A doctor would not have to spend hours every week negotiating with insurance company clerks to secure needed care for patients.
As a nation, we would not waste 30% of every healthcare dollar as we do now on marketing, administration, executive salaries and profit. Instead, we could spend in the single digits to administer a Medicare-like program for all.
Donald Broder MD
Insurers ought to be scorned for their behavior. No one ought to be surprised that they had the audacity to ask doctors to breach patient confidentiality, but all should be disgusted. Alternatively, physicians who received such letters and refused ought to be lauded for their adherence to the Hippocratic oath and their commitment to the well-being and privacy of their patients. It is this sort of behavior on the part of insurance providers that drives home the need for some sort of government intervention in healthcare.
Research and responsibility
Re "Smoking, and ire, at UCLA," Feb. 9
As a graduate of the UCLA School of Public Health, I am dismayed to learn of Philip Morris funding being accepted for tobacco research. The professed naivete of the undoubtedly qualified scientist and UCLA officials is more troubling. A modicum of research would show them that the only reason the tobacco industry takes such actions is to increase profits -- which necessitates addicting people.
The industry's motive is far from "immaterial," as UCLA's vice chancellor for research must know -- it's called the profit motive. It will taint any published research that might result from this work.
I was disappointed by the article about the ongoing UCLA study on adolescent nicotine addiction. By repeating unfounded allegations made by extremists that threaten the lives of our researchers or by anti-tobacco groups, this article sensationalizes a serious attempt to understand, and hopefully help prevent and treat, teenage addiction to tobacco.
This study, as any other study involving human or animal subjects at UCLA, has gone through the federally mandated review, and its results will be published in peer-reviewed literature without interference from funders. To insinuate that this study is tainted by its sponsor, or because it uses animals and deals with adolescents who are addicted, is unfair and misleading.
This article focuses on the funding sources for Edythe London's research, but it neglects to emphasize the magnitude of the violent attacks against her, or her work's potential benefit to society. Although members of the Society for Neuroscience believe in the right to peaceful expression of diverse opinions, violence and threats are beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and debate.
Despite being highly regulated, peer-reviewed, crucial to public health and legal, vital research is increasingly under violent attack by animal rights protesters engaging in illegal actions. This trend will continue unabated unless research institutions, governments, national funding agencies and the science community unite to defend responsible biomedical research. The responsible use of animals in research is indispensable for diagnosing and treating numerous medical conditions affecting millions. Violence, harassment and illegal actions to intimidate these researchers have no place in our society of laws.
Jeffrey H. Kordower
Chair, Committee on
Animals in Research
Society for Neuroscience
Re "Member of Congress had survived Nazi labor camp," obituary, Feb. 12
America has lost a great patriot, a great congressman and a man of absolute integrity with the death of Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Burlingame). An immigrant who survived the Holocaust and fought the Nazis as a teenager, he became the foremost conscience of America in his support of human rights around the world. Our country is better for his choice to become an American and to serve in Congress. We will sorely miss his honest and intelligent voice in our foreign affairs.
Lantos had many great moments. One of my favorites, unmentioned at the time, was a year or so ago when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice testified in Congress. As she entered the chamber, some crazy person assaulted her. Lantos, who was at her side, instantly stepped forward to shield her and fight off the assailant. Guts. He had plenty of them.
Keep history in mind
Re "They want this place to stay put," Feb. 8
We'd all love to keep historic buildings in their original locations; unfortunately, it is just not possible. Think of the Weddington House like your grandmother. Do you want her to die at home or live out her years well cared for in the Heritage Square Museum (and retirement community)?
The Weddington House belongs in North Hollywood, as one of the last vestiges of the San Fernando Valley's early farming community. It should form a historic district with the 1895 train station, the North Hollywood library and the fire station, all of which stand on land formerly owned by the Weddingtons.
Guy Weddington McCreary's pledge of $100,000 if it remains in North Hollywood would provide much security, restoration and upkeep, something that Heritage Square can't match. We in North Hollywood, Toluca Lake and Studio City are passionate about preserving our history and buildings where they are, and using the Weddington House as the home for a museum of the San Fernando Valley.
Re "History in the marking," editorial, Feb. 13
Why are you so upset by some people's ballots not being counted? How do we know that they who cannot read and follow simple instructions can make an educated decision about which candidate to vote for?
It's time Acting County Registrar Dean Logan stopped acting. We need a pro who appreciates the necessity of counting ballots when voting intentions are clear.