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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 21, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Health-care debate: Krauthammer is wrong about preventive care

A doctor is exaggerating the cost of preventive care

It is disappointing that a former physician such as Charles Krauthammer would put forth such a misleading analysis [“Preventive care is no panacea,” Opinion, syndicated column, Aug. 15] of the cost of preventive care, using an expensive $500 hypothetical test for mystery disease X.

His example assumes that all expensive preventive tests would be given to all people regardless of risk, which of course is a wasteful approach. There are very economical examples of preventive medicine that Krauthammer conveniently leaves out, like asthma screening in children or blood pressure and glucose checks for adults.

Catching asthma early saves in expensive emergency-room visits. Identifying people who can benefit from inexpensive blood-pressure medicines saves money by preventing years of heart disease later.

The prevention examples I gave are cheap and take only a few minutes. This is not “nonsense” or “deus ex machina” as Krauthammer claims.

Nonsense is when you make up a hypothetical disease with an expensive test to support a flawed hypothesis that prevention will cost us money.

— Mark Damberg, Seattle

More preventive care would save tax dollars

Charles Krauthammer wrote that prevention, on a societal level, costs more, not less. Prevention is much more than costly procedures, however. It includes vaccinations to prevent epidemics, counseling people about behaviors that can lower their risk for diseases, providing primary care to prevent expensive visits to emergency rooms and treating illnesses in a timely manner in order to prevent complications.

I have often seen patients that have been unable to afford their medicines, the supplies necessary to monitor their blood sugar or to obtain medical care. The result? After years of inadequate or no care, they develop blindness, kidney disease and/or foot ulcers.

At this point, they become disabled, finally get medical care from the government, and we taxpayers pay for dialysis, ophthalmic treatment, amputations and prosthetic limbs, vision services to teach the blind person how to function in the world and more. In addition, we have lost a productive member of our work force.

However, I agree that preventive care is not adequate to solve the problem of our country’s high cost of health care. Until we address the problem of health care for profit, the costs will continue to escalate.

Single-payer health care is the answer to affordable, sustainable and universal health care.

— Diane Bommer, RN and Certified Diabetes Educator, Port Townsend

Early care saves lives, money

This is not the first time I find Charles Krauthammer’s statements over the top and downright wrong.

This time he is telling us preventive care is for the birds and a waste of time and money. With his overlong diatribes, using many examples, he is trying hard to convince the reader that preventive care would cost us more than it saves. Is he saying being healthy is more expensive than being sick? What kind of nonsense is that?

Preventive care should be the stalwart of health care. Fortunately, we have started on the road to preventive care, with tests for many diseases. A good example is seen in cancer detection. A test may not necessarily prevent the disease but discovering it at its earliest stage is saves lives and money.

Krauthammer, by saying preventive care is nonsense, is doing the public a disservice. One expects more from a syndicated columnist.

— Jutta Kurtak, Bellevue

Without public option, no meaningful reform

I read in The Seattle Times [“Viability of public option in question,” page one, Aug. 17] that the Obama administration is considering dropping the public option as one of its goals in current health-care reform legislation.

I would prefer a single-payer plan but was willing to compromise on anything that included a public option. If this feature were to be eliminated from the plan, then I am afraid it would lose all my support as well.

The fact of the matter is: Without at least a public option, no meaningful reform in health care can possibly take place. That is because, in the end, the insurance companies will still be in charge of the system.

Like any business in America, insurance companies are profit driven. As such, their objectives are always going to be to take in as much money as possible while expending as little as possible.

The health care of any of their customers will always come secondary to that principal. A public option is the only way to address this problem effectively. That is obviously why it is meeting so much resistance from the industry.

— Marshall Dunlap, Kent

Comments | More in Congress, Federal government, Health care, Politics, Reform, Republicans


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