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Readers React: Don’t let this article start a Medicare meme

To the editor: David Lazarus’ column on Medicare’s supposed payment of $4,000 for a Salisbury steak served to a hospital patient is a nice example of the making of a journalistic myth, a bit like the accepted “fact” that the IRS targeted conservative groups. (“Fraud, waste and absurd charges a drag on Medicare,” Nov. 6)

Lazarus admits that he knows nothing about the charges Medicare paid: He did not see that invoice, and the charges were not itemized on the patient’s bill that he did see. But when Medicare paid what seems to have been a wildly inflated invoice, “the only possible response has to be: That’s some Salisbury steak.”

Later, that playful conjecture becomes the predicate for a conclusion about the competence of Medicare. Shouldn’t Lazarus leave that sort of thing to the political consultants whose job is spinning the facts?

Edgar Schell, Irvine

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To the editor: Far too often people have gone to the hospital uninsured, so you and I end up paying their bills. This translates to seemingly insane charges for routine care, but without these charges, you would not have medical care.

Even the person who has insurance does not really care what the costs are. Most do not even request a detailed bill.

So, what should we do? Only the unthinkable: We should pay individually for the healthcare we use. We save for healthcare like we save for retirement.

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Remember, health insurance is a relatively new concept. Employers offered it during World War II as a way to recruit top talent because of the wage controls imposed by the government. During most of the 1950s, health insurance for the average person was not generally available.

But somehow, we managed to survive. We paid our medical bills directly to the doctor or hospital.

William Baker, Yorba Linda

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To the editor: Lazarus reports that Medicare and Medicaid “shelled out more than $62 billion in ‘improper payments’ last year, according to the Government Accountability Office.”

Could it make sense to hire 1,000 or more qualified individuals making up to $100,000 each to start reviewing and eliminating the most egregious areas of abuse, costing a pittance compared with the staggering cost to taxpayers?

Corinne Martin, Santa Monica

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion

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