Junk mail is just one symptom

Are you on Medicare? You’re in good company: 60 million Americans and one million Minnesotans are, too. The Medicare annual open enrollment period just ended in December. In those eight weeks, how much glossy mail did you receive from private insurers?

Original Medicare (the federal “Big Pool” of Part A and Part B) simply sends your card when you are first eligible, an annual guide called Medicare and You and a quarterly statement of claims showing how your card was used. That’s it. As a financing model, Medicare is very efficient. But, since its 1965 creation, its coverage has big holes and no shortage of private insurer options to fill them, that’s where the confusion lies.

It all adds up. What entered your mailbox this fall as Medicare “coverage choices” was 99% waste: the paper, trees, printing and mailing costs. Multiply by a million people in Minnesota. Who pays for that? We all carry that burden, through higher premiums passed to us as an administrative overhead expense. Ditto all the prime-time TV advertising and the armies of people writing the fine print about what’s excluded from your coverage, multiplied by how many insurance plans. So does the burden of stress and worry about choosing incorrectly.

Unnecessary complexity is expensive. Simplicity is cheap. Original Medicare’s administrative overhead is less than 2% of its budget. No private insurer comes close to that. The difference between the public and private cost is arguably wasted money, an inefficiency that could cover dental care for millions, for instance. Instead it is spent on overhead that benefits no one’s health.

Another complexity cost happens at the health care provider level, as each must deal with the demands of so many differing payers (or they hire staff to do so). Original Medicare has its set of payment rules, but so do all other private insurers; each has differing pre-authorizations for procedures, formularies for prescriptions, networks of providers who may need referrals, etc. Time is money. For a primary care provider, the burden of dealing with complexity of payment means less time hands-on with you, the patient needing care and attention.

Research shows “The gap in health administrative spending between the United States and Canada is large and widening, and it reflects the inefficiencies of the U.S. private insurance-based, multi-payer system. The prices that U.S. medical providers charge incorporate a hidden surcharge to cover their costly administrative burden.”

That is the conclusion of David Himmelstein, Terry Campbell and Steffie Woolhandler in Health Care Administrative Costs in the U.S. and Canada, 2017 Annals of Internal Medicine published Jan. 7, 2020.

Imagination time: Can you envision having a choice of trading the junk mail in and getting a free dental exam/cleaning? Or perhaps a free 45-minute-long in-depth chat with your favorite primary health care provider? That and more could happen, if we as a nation choose to rethink the multi-payer financing model and use the savings to pay for real health care, not waste.

Lisa Krahn, executive director, Seven County Senior Federation, Mora

Khrushchev said

Almost exactly 60 years ago, Russia’s Khrushchev delivered his message to the UN; … prediction for America.

Television coverage of him banging his shoe on the podium. At that time, the word ‘communism’ was feared throughout our nation. Do you remember Sept. 29, 1959? Now here is some food for thought if it does not make us choke!

This was his entire quote: “Your children’s children will live under communism, You Americans are so gullible. No, you won’t accept communism outright; but we will keep feeding you small doses of socialism until you will finally wake up and find you already have Communism. We will not have to fight you; We will so weaken your economy, until you will fall like overripe fruit into our hands.” “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

Remember, socialism leads to Communism. So, how do you create a socialistic state? There are eight levels of control; read the following recipe:

• Health care - control health care and you control the people.

• Poverty - increase the poverty level as high as possible, poor people are easier to control and will not fight back if you are providing everything for them.

• Debt - increase the debt to an unsustainable level. That way you are able to increase taxes, and this will produce more poverty.

• Gun Control - remove the ability to defend themselves from the government, that way you are able to create a police state.

• Welfare - take control of every aspect (food, housing, income) of their lives because that will make them fully-dependent on the government.

• Education - take control of what people read and listen to and take control of what children learn in school.

• Religion - remove the belief in God from the government and schools because the people need to believe in ONLY the government knowing what is best for the people.

• Class Warfare - divide the people into the wealthy and the poor. Eliminate the middle class. This will cause more discontent and it will be easier to tax the wealthy with the support of the poor

Sounds just like the Socialist Democrat agenda!

Robert Dreger, Aitkin

Leadership needs to pay attention

Some are more prone to loneliness than others. Those that have no family close, those that have no hobbies/interests within their homes need leadership that understand such issues. Also it is an individual’s frame of mind that are living alone, many I feel are able to live comfortably alone.

Keep in mind, many will not ask for help, many do not know who to talk to to get help if they are lonely.

Having worked for a number of years in this field of health issues locally, have seen and heard from many who are lonely. I feel there needs to be advocates that are on our payroll, going into homes that need to be aware. But are they taught to be looking for such issues? Yes there are several groups that would love to put their staff in our homes, however not everyone is comfortable allowing this as basically, I feel, it is a trust factor, they fear abuse, fearing items stolen just to name a couple. My feeling actually who can we trust today?

Georgia J. Johnson, Aitkin


Even if you think the Senate did the right thing in acquitting the president, you also need to remember the other things he has done that negatively affect almost everyone in the country. For instance, allowing oil drilling and logging in formally protected public space in Alaska and now Utah. The continued attack on the scientists and activists that warn about climate change. The baloney that he spreads regarding the economy.

All  experts agree that the economy is doing well, but it’s because of the natural ebb and flow, not any policy that has been introduced by this administration. The tax cut really only benefited the very wealthy and corporations. Company’s like Amazon paid no federal income tax in 2018. Can the average person say that?

Right now China and other countries are struggling with the coronavirus and the Center for Disease Control is working to keep its impact minimal here even though this administration cut millions of dollars from their budget last year.

Mike Osterholm, the former Minnesota State Epidemiologist and now considered the country’s top scientist in infectious disease, predicted more than 10 years ago that there was a good chance that a disease was very likely to strike the U.S., originating from somewhere else and our inability to combat it would be similar to plague of centuries ago. The point is that our federal government is not doing what’s best for our country. This administration is only looking forward for the short-term and what they themselves can personally gain.

Dick Weinhandl, Aitkin

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