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Medicare at 50: Contain costs to keep the program going

Medicare at 50: Contain costs to keep the program going
A nurse Damien talks with a patient in the emergency room at Olive View - UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I believe that my recent experience at a local hospital during recovery from a relatively routine hip replacement surgery illustrates why Medicare is becoming "staggeringly expensive." I was astonished to see from my insurance notice that this hospital charged Medicare Part A more than $100,000 for a five-day stay, when the hospital does not even have rehabilitation facilities. ("Medicare and Medicaid at 50: Successful, expensive," editorial, July 30)

Also, hospital doctors typically charged more than $300 (reduced by Medicare to about $105) for inpatient care that they claimed was for up to 40 minutes per day. However, in reality they came by for five-minute visits to check on my pain level and whether I had gone to the bathroom.

I suspect that unreasonable charges by hospitals and the doctors in the hospitals are major factors in driving up Medicare costs. Something must be done to contain these expenses if Medicare is to survive.

Sam Blackman, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Nowhere in your editorial on Medicare do you mention the fact that the program loses billions (perhaps tens of billions) of dollars to fraud each year. This financial drain stems from a poorly written law that contains many loopholes and complications in its fee-for-service format.

Republican ideas of a voucher system or block grants to the states would very likely put a damper on the con artists who rip off the system year after year. Imagine how nice it would be to have those billions healing the sick instead of lining the pockets of thieves.

Gil Roscoe, Valley Village

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To the editor: Your editorial describes ways physicians and hospitals can reduce the cost of medical care, but nowhere do you discuss the responsibility of patients to assist in this worthwhile endeavor.

Patients are responsible for continued obesity, smoking, illicit drug use, unprotected sex, lack of exercise, not wearing seat belts and more. Until

patients are held accountable for their poor choices, it will be difficult or even impossible to control costs.

Vincent J Carollo, MD, Upland

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