Letters to the Editor is a periodic feature. We welcome all comments and will publish a selection. We edit for length and clarity and require full names.


Standing Up for the Homeless

Many aspects of your story on homeless camps being “swept,” moved or cleared during this pandemic (“Sweeps of Homeless Camps Run Counter to COVID Guidance and Pile On Health Risks,” June 26) seemed tone-deaf or smacked of a skewed viewpoint by those who blame the homeless for poverty or other circumstances that lead them to camp on the street. Nancy Kuhn references 9,500 pounds of garbage after a sweep. Did that include tents, bicycles, clothing, shoes and other things people worked hard to acquire? If so, labeling it as “trash” falsely tars the owners as slovenly rather than hard-working and desperate. Colleen Echohawk’s comments about these people bringing “their COVID-19” and “their hepatitis A” with them after they’re kicked out of a site was another example of judgmental characterization and demonization from a position of privilege. I am so disappointed with the use of this forum to make things even worse for suffering individuals and families.

— Patricia Chritton, Stoughton, Wisconsin

— Rosie Palfy, Cleveland, Ohio

No Room for Rodeo


Be aware that every animal welfare organization in North America condemns the rodeo due to its inherent cruelty (“Montana Rodeo Goes On, Bucking Fears on Fort Peck Reservation,” July 17). For nearly all the abused animals involved, the rodeo arena is merely a detour en route to the slaughterhouse. Some “sport”! Rodeo — like those Confederate statues — has had its day, and now belongs in the Dustbin of History, R.I.P.

Lest we forget, COVID-19 was human-caused, a direct result of our gross mistreatment of animals, both wild and domestic. There are connections to be made here, folks.

How’s about a follow-up rodeo story from the animals’ point of view?

— Eric Mills, coordinator of Action for Animals, Oakland, California

— Dr. Tom Frieden, New York City

More Power to Him

Fantastic story (“‘More Than Physical Health’: Gym Helps 91-Year-Old Battle Isolation,” June 30). Very inspiring. My best wishes to Mr. Ballard. Please publish more such stories.


— Ramesh Gandhi, Sterling Heights, Michigan

—— Dr. Christopher Chen, Miami

‘Skill’ of the Month?

I like your Bill of the Month stories. However, is there a technique or training of some sort that will help common folks decipher codes, understand charges so we know when these cross a red line? Perhaps you can write an article on best-known methods to decompose bills and understand what is fair and what is not. I know it varies per state, region, etc. But some guidance will be good. Sadly, I am starting to believe this is a “skill” everyone must have in the U.S.

I’m imagining a data “decoder ring” that one could use to quantify medical codes (ICD-9, ICD-10, etc.) and would give people a notion of “average” or “fair” charges in their area and in other parts of the country. This data would expose discrepancies among regions, perhaps among countries, making it very powerful to drive legislation. It is preposterous that we can get better info when buying/selling a car through Edmunds, the National Automobile Dealers Association and Kelley Blue Book than we can for medical procedures and services.

— Ramon Diaz, Phoenix

Editor’s note: We did publish training, of sorts, about a year ago. Please check out our go-to guide on decoding medical bills.

The list is available in the physician fee schedule. Patients don’t normally meet the assistant surgery, and the assistant has no clinical responsibilities before or after the surgery.

— Betsy Nicoletti, Northampton, Massachusetts

‘Concierge’ Medicine Has Roots in the ACA?

National interest in “concierge” physician practices and services did not become widespread until the Affordable Care Act, when millions of patients and families were left “Holding the Bag” when they lost both their plan and their physician (“When a Doctor No Longer Accepts Medicare, Patients Left Holding the Bag,” June 9). This public interest “concierge” service was actually an effort to expand access to care for existing employer-health-plan patients who lost access under the ACA rather than reduce patient access, as this story suggests.

— Don Caton, San Diego

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Tucson

The Best Way to Honor Front-Line Heroes

We owe health care workers a sorry, not a thank you (“Lost on the Frontline”). We are sorry for what we have put you through. We messed up, big time.

When COVID-19 struck the U.S. and you were crying for PPE, we were too busy looking for someone to blame. When you were overworked and couldn’t go home to see your own children, we were too busy complaining about home-schooling.

When you had to see so much pain and suffering, every hour, every day, we said that this whole thing is just a conspiracy. When you were doing everything you could to save lives, we said that those are just numbers and — who knows? — maybe you are just trying to get some funding.

When you pleaded with us to stay home and be safe, we told you that freedom is our right. When you explained the science behind the testing and tracing, we asked you to slow it down and stop making us look bad.

When hundreds of you gave your own lives on the front line, we thanked you for being heroes, but we knew that had we done better, we could have saved many of you, too.

You are not superheroes and you shouldn’t be. There are things we can do and we must do to help you out and to take care of you. For so long, we were looking at others for answers but now we know the answer is in our hands and it has always been.

For so long we made this all about politics, but now we know it’s the people and lives that matter. This is not one person’s safety; it’s all of us. This is not one state’s problem; it’s all of us.

Whether we are in the middle of the first wave or the beginning of the second wave, let us take our social responsibilities, let us take this chance to do over. Health care Heroes, this time, let us make it right for you.

— Joyce Li Coffy, Los Angeles

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