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Readers and Tweeters Remain Vigilant on Masking and Billing

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.

Can’t Mask the Worry

I am a nursing student writing in response to a recent article by Colleen DeGuzman about new guidelines on masking from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“The CDC’s New Guidelines on Covid Risk and Masking Send Confounding Signals,” March 9). I am concerned about the confusing messages that the CDC’s new guidelines are sending. My concern is that we will become less vigilant, leading to a large influx of hospital admissions related to covid-19 in the coming year.

Since vaccination status varies throughout the nation/world, I worry that we are leaving the door open for new variants of covid-19 to emerge. Though some groups such as children below age 5 are not yet eligible for the vaccine, those of us who are eligible should keep up to date with vaccination and boosters against covid-19. Vaccines are one way we can slow the emergence of new covid-19 variants like omicron. I hope that we will continue to be vigilant regardless of the confusion these constantly changing guidelines may cause.

— Alejandra Avalos, Pleasant Hill, California

— Myra Batchelder, New York City

High NICU Bill Hits Home

I just heard the story about a family’s surprise $80,000 medical bill for their children’s NICU stay (“An $80,000 Tab for Newborns Lays Out a Loophole in the New Law to Curb Surprise Bills,” Feb. 23).

I can relate to this story very well as my wife and I are going through a similar situation. Our baby was born seven weeks early at an in-network facility. She was rushed into the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit because her lungs were not inflated at birth. She lived her first 41 days in the NICU.

Approximately 30 days into her hospital stay, we received a vague letter from Pediatrix Obstetrix (Mednax) letting us know that the physicians providing her care were out of network. I called the phone number that the letter provided for a few days and received no response to my voicemails. I finally received a response after I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

Our daughter was born over six months ago, and we are still dealing with this weekly and have no end in sight. Nor do we have any idea what is going to be billed to us. While we have made headway in reducing charges by repeatedly appealing claims, we have had to advocate for ourselves and spend countless hours ensuring we don’t become greater victims of UnitedHealthcare and Mednax.

Thank you for shining light on what should be considered illegal business practices of the medical insurance industry.

— Anthony Mancini, Flagstaff, Arizona

— Lori Nerbonne, Biddeford, Maine

No Surprises Act Is a Joke

As a senior on a fixed, low Social Security retirement-only income, never having worked for any employer who offered retirement plans and never earning more than subsistence, I can tell you this: If I became ill or got injured, there is no way I would seek medical help. Even with zero-premium Medicare Advantage, the copays and out-of-pocket caps and partially covered/not covered issues would be impossible for me to cover. Legislators continue to give hospitals a pass for bad behavior with the intentional loopholes in legislation. The No Surprises Act is a joke (“An $80,000 Tab for Newborns Lays Out a Loophole in the New Law to Curb Surprise Bills,” Feb. 23). As for me? I would simply choose no medical treatment and let the chips fall where they may. Not interested in desperate attempts to feed the insatiably greedy maw that describes the American health care system — a system fully designed and implemented to create and maintain extreme poverty as the only option for those who do not have deep pockets.

— Alexis Madison, Halsey, Oregon

— Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters, Las Vegas

Addicted to Profits?

I read your article on changes to methadone distribution (“Calls to Overhaul Methadone Distribution Intensify, but Clinics Resist,” March 3). I am the director of a buprenorphine MAT (medication-assisted treatment) program. I sympathize with methadone program directors regarding the gyrations one must go through before Medicaid will reimburse them, regardless of being for-profit or nonprofit. Medicaid must simplify, without losing the ability to detect fraud. Speaking cynically, though, I don’t see anything improving without limiting the lobbyists’ influence over regulations that perpetuate the status quo, which is being driven by profit considerations. Where there is profit, there is greed, corruption of the legislative process, and distortion of regulations, for the benefit of the for-profit organizations. Applying the evidence base sounds great, but lobbyists can overcome it easily. In summary, I appreciated the article, which pointed out the problems with the current system of providing methadone to those whose lives depend upon access to it, but fixing the problem may be impossible given the influence that profit can buy.

— Dr. Neil Flynn, Sacramento, California

— Lizzi Cochrane, Kathleen, Georgia

A Tech Innovation That Answers the Call

Some innovations are better than others … for people with some disabilities (“Pandemic Medical Innovations Leave Behind People With Disabilities,” March 11). As an 81-year-old with moderately severe hearing loss, I love Zoom meetings! I cannot understand most masked speakers and, in the past, meeting with a group of six or more people I often had difficulty even without masks. On Zoom, people tend to sit up straight, look directly into the camera, make sure their face is well lighted, and are careful about not speaking over others. If the host knows how to enable it, closed captioning is available. Unfortunately, my Kaiser Permanente provider does not use Zoom but rather a much more limited program, in which I can’t adjust the size of the speaker window and CC is not available.

— Mary Herzog, Napa, California

— Amber J. Martin, New York City

A Gift From a Gifted Writer

My first marriage was to a woman with cerebral palsy, but that was long ago. This story reawakened what I had learned from that experience, forcefully and profoundly (“A Disabled Activist Speaks Out About Feeling ‘Disposable,’” Feb. 3).

My deep and heartfelt gratitude to Alice Wong, but here I wish to praise mainly the writing of Rachel Scheier. However talented and experienced Ms. Scheier may be, her beautifully crafted article was clearly a labor of love. Presenting her interview with Ms. Wong in the form of an interview (rather than merely reporting what she had learned) was a brilliant idea and was brilliantly executed — conversational, simple, direct, clear, and cogent altogether, an ideal model for any journalism class. Like listening to Beethoven! A lovely and meaningful gift. Thank you.

— Richard A. Morgan, Berkeley, California

— Andrew Pulrang, Plattsburgh, New York

Putting Injustices of Judicial System in Perspective

Excellent story by LJ Dawson about an inmate serving a 42-month federal sentence for failure to collect payroll taxes (“Inmates Who Died Asked for Release Before Falling Ill With Covid,” Feb. 18). It would have been helpful to cite the value of the payroll taxes and compare that to the actual taxes paid by President Donald Trump and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos so the reader could decide on the justification of the woman’s sentence.

— Joe Morris, Philadelphia

— The Scalawag Magazine team, Durham, North Carolina

This story was produced by KHN (Kaiser Health News), a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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