Letter of the week

“Wahkon Bog”

I recently sent a letter to the Wahkon City Council to add my voice of wholehearted support to the efforts led by the Mille Lacs Wetlands Preservation group to preserve, protect and promote the area referenced as “Wahkon Bog” as the pristine bog/fen ecosystem it is, to designate it as a nature preserve, to protect it forever and to provide home and habitat for all that lives there.

As owners/stewards/inhabitants of approximately 55 acres of forest/wetland located between Isle and Wahkon, bordering several hundred feet of the east 

side of the little bay currently referenced as”The Unnamed Bay of Mille Lacs”–land which we have protected forever via a conservation easement in collaboration with the Minnesota Land Trust–my husband Doug Jacobson and I stand in strong support of protecting the Wahkon Bog.

Noisy, overrun places are already plentiful. May the City of Wahkon have the foresight and wisdom to recognize the inherent value of an increasingly rare gift of quiet, a place of natural beauty and mystery, a place for people to ponder while hiking, “birding,” skiing, studying, researching, photographing, painting, writing, etc. May that wisdom also recognize the value inherent in other, non-human forms of life by preserving the Wahkon Bog to help protect resources and habitat for wildlife of many kinds, both flora and fauna.

While the “return on investment” may not be as readily apparent as the quick income generated by motorized use and/or invasive development, it will be far greater lasting and of deeper value to all in the generations to come. Simply put, there is far more to life than “money” or “profit.”

We urge you, the reader, to also contact the Wahkon City Council and endorse the efforts to protect the Wahkon Bog.

Sue Lyback and

Doug Jacobson, Wahkon

Are you on Medicare?

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 percent 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 two percent 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 healthcare 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 January 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 forty-five-minute-long, in-depth chat with your favorite primary healthcare 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 healthcare, not waste.

Lisa Krahn, Executive Director, Seven County Senior Federation

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