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Letters to the editor, February 3

Bone to pick

I can recall Dr. Albert E. Wyss making a house call for about $15, which wasn’t cheap, 60 years ago. I drive past a building on South Locust Street that used to be a hospital, and I see apartments where Flow Memorial Hospital used to be. Things really have changed.

I trace the change primarily to Medicare and Medicaid. Funneling government money into health care has resulted in a huge increase in facilities, drugs, treatments and health care businesses, but has also resulted in a ballooning of prices. We surely live somewhat longer and, hopefully, also somewhat better.

I have a bone to pick regarding prices. Hospitals, for example, crank out a mind-boggling bill up front, but they discount it about 75 percent for Medicare and still apparently make money, even treating those who can’t pay.

Their actual costs must be something like 20 percent or less of their fantastic bills, or they wouldn't be erecting new structures with empty rooms, maintaining large corporate headquarters and attracting investors. Hospitals aren’t alone in this.

We are involved, too.

There’s something called “moral hazard,” where insurance changes a person’s perspective. If we are paying directly, we weigh the costs and the benefits, while if there’s insurance, we naturally focus only on the benefit.

What does the future hold? Fewer doctors. Insurance companies failing. Huge payments from government into the health care system. Much complaining about costs and service. More legislation and regulations. Poorer service for all.

I hope I am wrong.

Ross Melton Jr.,