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Readers and Tweeters Fight Stigma and Salute Front-Line Workers

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.

In case you need your blood to boil, read this story about a woman’s surprise medical bill for lab tests she never requested and was never informed would happen. #health #healthcare #fixhealthcare

— John McQuiston (@JohnMcQuiston) December 23, 2020

— John McQuiston, Tampa, Florida

Reading Between the Lines on STD Testing

In your Bill of the Month feature “Retiree Living the RV Dream Fights $12,387 Nightmare Lab Fee” (Dec. 23), the implication that monogamous older people need not worry about sexually transmitted diseases caught me off guard.

I know this extreme example of an older lady being bullied to pay thousands of dollars for care she didn’t ask for was the heart of the piece (and I completely agree with the coverage you gave to this important issue — how dare they overcharge this lady and go after so many for unnecessary tests). But I found adding the sex appeal-STD example and including the jab she made about young people with multiple boyfriends was unnecessary and hides a clear problem: All people, including monogamous people, aren’t taking STD precautions or testing as seriously as they should. I know in this case it was particularly problematic that she didn’t ask for these tests, but the repeated focus on her not needing them because she’s been monogamous and she’s older was a little problematic.

In particular, I found this quote stigmatizing of non-monogamous people and increasing stigma around testing in general as well as specifically among older adults: “They ran all these tests that one would run on a very young person who had a lot of boyfriends, not a 60-year-old grandmother that’s been married for 26 years.”

When surveyed, non-monogamous people report the same rates of STDs as non-monogamous people, despite having had a greater number of lifetime partners — likely because of the conversations and actions taken around safer sex practices (such as condom use and STD testing).

Additionally, the elderly are at higher risk when contracting STDs and, although their rates are comparatively smaller, their rates are actually growing.

As stigma is high and knowledge about risks and the science of STDs is especially low among older adults, and even young people find it’s hard to talk to their doctors about STDs — I’d encourage you to write more on the topic of STD screenings among all ages and relationship orientations. You could very well save lives.

— Lily Colby, Sacramento, California

Why is the U.S. healthcare industry unlike every other industry? It’s a black box. Bills are works of fiction, not math. The argument of market vs. gov-run misses the point – its both and neither. When will Americans stop tolerating it?

— Jonathan Reisman MD (@jonreismanMD) December 23, 2020

— Dr. Jonathan Reisman, Philadelphia

Terrific column by ⁦@CaraRAnthony⁩ about the complications evoked by her new haircut. (Which looks great.) For anybody who thinks white privilege is a myth—when was the last time your family worried your haircut might endanger your life?

— Lenny Kleinfeld (@LennyKleinfeld) November 9, 2020

— Lenny Kleinfeld, Los Angeles

Speak up! Don’t be afraid to ask what tests your doctor is running and whether or not they’re truly necessary. At the end of the day, you’re the one receiving the bill. #patientadvocacy

— Kayla Carlough (@CarloughKayla) December 29, 2020

— Kayla Carlough, Austin, Texas

Getting to the Roots of Racism

I write to express my extreme enjoyment of Cara Anthony’s article “Black Hair Matters: How Going Natural Made Me Visible” (Nov. 13). It started out about a recent hairstyle change and then evolved into a wonderfully warm, strong and enriching cultural expression. Thank you for your professional affiliation with her as a reporter. I was touched and enhanced by her writing. It also pointed the way to your organization and the needed services you provide. Happy New Year and much success to you.

— Rodney L. Jones, St. Louis

Try to get your head around the fact that a haircut can make you unsafe. Op-Ed: What a buzz cut during the pandemic taught me about racism and sexism

— Debra Newby Watkins (@DebWoi) November 9, 2020

— Debra Newby Watkins, Austin, Texas

As we remember the nurses and health care workers who died on the front lines of this #pandemic, make no mistake: this didn’t have to happen. #ProtectNurses

— Bonnie Castillo (@NNUBonnie) January 9, 2021

— Bonnie Castillo, Oakland, California

Covid Is Bound to Haunt Health Care Workers

It bothers me that hospital officials say many of these nurses got covid-19 from outside the hospital (“More Than 2,900 Health Care Workers Died This Year — And the Government Barely Kept Track,” Dec. 23). My daughter is a nurse in Ohio. She moved out on her own so she wouldn’t give the coronavirus to her family and is now living like a ghost. It was the same when the Whirlpool Corp. said my wife got a repetitive stress disorder from life at home and not on the line making washers. Yeah, right. And coal miners get black lung from starting a fire in the fireplace.

I believe that even when covid-19 is over, for a lot of nurses and others, it will never end. They have seen too many people die alone. It will be just like the soldiers from the war, always tossing in bed, whimpering into the darkness of the night, yet never wishing they had failed the National Council Licensure Examination test that got them their jobs with dads, like me, so proud. Yeah, then will come layoffs from hospitals taxed from covid-19 causing them to lose money. The stock in antidepressants will skyrocket. When my daughter began as a nurse, I drove her to work. The nurses coming into work were happy and bubbly. Now they are draggy and long-faced, as if they just got off a flight from Vietnam to a home where no one cares. But we, the public of America, care.

— Steven Littlejohn, Bellevue, Ohio

It doesn’t bother you that 330k Americans are dead? That many “survivors” are fighting long term health problems? That healthcare workers are dying at rates not seen in 100 years?

— Derek Aupperlee (@DAupperlee) December 30, 2020

— Derek Aupperlee, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Last time I mentioned this it was 1,700. Now it’s 2,900. Most recently, a physician here in Indianapolis. 2,900 being missed at Christmas. While some continue to dismiss their deaths as only a small percentage, like they didn’t matter. They mattered.

— Summer Steenburg (@scubagirl007) December 24, 2020

— Summer Steenburg, Indianapolis

Dialysis’ Other Stakeholders

Your story is a bit unbalanced (“Dialysis Industry Spends Millions, Emerges as Power Player in California Politics,” Dec. 10). Yes, it’s true that DaVita and Fresenius have profits to protect, but the Service Employees International Union is guilty of its own self-aggrandizement at its sites. And, it’s not just the for-profit dialysis companies that opposed the SEIU initiatives. Not-for-profit dialysis companies, e.g., Satellite Health Care and Dialysis Clinic Inc., did as well, and their opposition was backed by academic and professional societies representing physicians and registered nurses, with little or no support for the initiatives coming from non-aligned parties or (and I believe this is critical) from patients themselves, who had reasons to worry that the economic and structural burdens imposed by success of any of them would inevitably result in closure of many clinics — particularly in rural areas where some of the mandates would have been impossible to implement.

— James Robertson, Hamilton, Montana

Yes! Also tangentially related was this dialysis spending on marketing from last week. You’d think with enough market power they wouldn’t be as worried about policy makers

— Dr. Lacey Loomer (@lacey_loomer) December 21, 2020

— Dr. Lacey Loomer, Duluth, Minnesota

Fighting the ‘Same Old Thinking’ on Alzheimer’s

We were saddened to see KHN’s article “Alzheimer’s Inc: Colleagues Question Scientist’s Pricey Recipe Against Memory Loss” (Dec. 17), which unfairly characterizes the motivations of Dr. Dale Bredesen and Apollo Health. Each member of our workforce has been impacted by the scourge of Alzheimer’s, and suggesting that we are trying to benefit financially from conveying false hope is hurtful to us and harmful to those seeking treatment options.

We have many success stories already, and we look forward to sharing clinical trial results in the coming months, but we respect those who argue it is too soon to offer the protocol. After all, while we have had strong results and over 200 published studies laying the foundation for our work, we have not yet published definitive results.

However, it is wrong to assert that we are immoral profiteers. We have chosen to translate research success into consumer availability earlier than some would like because the standard of care offers patients with a fatal, progressive disease, no hope of success. In effect, our critics only want people to have access to options that have proven to fail. Medicine has a long history of “compassionate use” when no other treatment options are available. We offer access to a promising, no-risk alternative that has passed every step of the research journey so far.

The same old thinking and treatment will not solve the Alzheimer’s epidemic. However, we are confident in our revolutionary approach and in consumers’ ability to choose their treatment and prevention options for themselves.

— Laura Lazzarini, Burlingame, California

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


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