Affordable Health Care Abroad
Those who insist that controlling health care costs would result in poorer quality care could learn a lesson from my recent experience of a stroke while on vacation in Germany.
My bill for nine days in the hospital certainly proved that medical care can be delivered much more cheaply than it is delivered here.
When the stroke occurred Sept. 9, my family took me to a nearby U.S. Army dispensary (I am an Air Force retiree). After being stabilized, I was taken to the University Hospital in Regensburg, 30 miles away. Fortunately, the stroke ("schlaganfall" or cerebral accident, as the Germans called it) was mild, and I retained all my faculties.
In those nine days, I underwent two CAT scans, two electroencephalograms (EEGs), one electrocardiogram (EKG) and other tests.
I was in a semiprivate room, alone, and received daily injections of a blood thinner and intravenous infusions of another substance to dissolve a small infarction in my vascular system.
This, according to my neurologist, is the same treatment I would have received at a Baltimore hospital. The chief of neurology, one of the most respected neurologists in Europe, visited at least daily and my attending physician, a board-certified neurologist, checked on me several times a day.
I got excellent nursing care, far better than I got in February during four days in a Baltimore hospital. When I left the hospital, I was given all my CAT and brain scans and a medical synopsis of my case to give my physician here.
My bill was the big revelation. It amounted to slightly less than $1,500, including physician and nursing services, board and room, tests and medication. Three Baltimore physicians have told me that the same bill for these services would exceed $14,000 here.
While I don't claim expertise about medical care costs, I noticed several procedural differences which make the German delivery system less costly than ours.
For example, when I had each of the CAT scans, the chief of neurology was present to view the pictures as they were generated; the actual plate was redundant, although it was studied later by the entire clinic staff. Several other tests were done and evaluated by the physicians themselves.
In Baltimore, the CAT scan and most other x-rays are done without a physician present; a radiologist, who bills independently of the hospital, "reads" the film later, usually at a cost of several hundred dollars and sends his evaluation to the attending physician. (If a physician can't evaluate a test he orders, his credentials as a physician should be suspect.) This is just one example of how vast amounts of money can be saved.
With health-care costs long gone out of sight and now entering the political arena, the U.S. could do a lot worse than to study the German system objectively, copy what is good about it and adopt a system in which the worst parts of the German system are changed.
Of course, there wouldn't be as many millionaire physicians as we have now. Certainly, my case is a prime example of how much health care can be delivered for the buck.
Charles A. Frainie
Although I would never vote for George Bush or Ross Perot, I am still debating with myself as to whom I should cast my insignificant ballot. It is clear to me that Bill Clinton stands the best chance to be elected, but is also the best reason not to vote for the other two.
What would happen if Mr. Bush got re-elected? Clearly, with all likelihood and probability that the Congress will be more Democratic, assertive and independent, the chance of legislation originating from the executive branch would be non-existent.
Thirty-five successful vetoes have proved that this president is opposed to legislation promoted by Congress and is unable or unwilling to compromise.
Furthermore, Mr. Perot has no history of dealing effectively with a diverse body of elected officials over a long period of time.
His inability to accept "no" guarantees gridlock or legislation without any real influence from the executive branch. All power in any one branch would be dangerous and in violation of the principle of checks and balances.
Bill Clinton has a 12-year track record as an elected governor. Whether he has been successful is debatable.
What is clear is that although his views and policies may not all be in the best interest of progressive voters, they are pretty much in line with the House and Senate leadership.
We would likely see some quick and dramatic action the first 100 days that could influence the remaining years of this century.
Myles B. Hoenig
Your story of Oct. 3, "Black legislators pressure Schaefer to change emissions contract," caused me to think.
I think it is time for the state and federal governments to change their procurement policies to encourage and reward companies to achieve racial and gender diversity of ownership when competing for government contracts.
Otherwise, we remain pitted against one another in a scenario that often breeds resentment, animosity and mistrust.
Robert E. Green
Major Al Levy
McDonogh School was, is now and will continue to be a great school, largely because of the efforts of Major Al Levy.
My husband, Glenn (class of 1950), and son, Ridge (class of 1982), are among so many of the two generations of fathers and sons who can attest to the guidance and support they received from "Maj."
The familiar atmosphere at McDonogh lends itself to the "Major Dad" role which Al Levy has played so successfully for so many years. It is one of the reasons why we, as a family, will continue to call him friend.
Without condoning the allegations recently published in The Sun, we hasten to add our support to a man who has not only devoted his life to enhancing student life at the school, but whose tireless fund-raising efforts have helped ensure McDonogh's future.
Helen Ann Hardy
My family has been associated with McDonogh School for over 30 years, and I read with appreciation your article of Oct. 3 describing the school community's outstanding support of Maj. Alvin J. Levy.
"Maj" has been a stabilizing presence at the school as both an educator and friend. As an educator, he counseled many about life's values and as a friend, he opened his home and his heart.
He listened to the problems, fears and concerns of those who came to him for advice and comfort. His wisdom and support touched not only the children who attended the school but reached beyond them to their siblings and parents.
Few people are more honorable or more deserving of respect than "Maj." His priorities have always been the students, their families whom he nurtured and the institution to which he dedicated a lifetime. It is those students, their families and that institution which stand by him now when he is in need of listening and comfort.
In an age when heroes are defined by athletic prowess, we should remember the days when heroes were characterized by honor, truth and courage. By that definition, to many "Maj" is not only a mentor but a hero as well.
Michelle S. Hooper
You recently published a short article concerning the staff salaries for the president and vice president. There is one other bit o f"legal larceny", i.e. presidential annuities.
The obscenities of those salaries pale into insignifiance compared to the presidential annuities authorized under the Former Presidents Act of 1958.
Information extrapolated from a report for Congress compiled by the Congressional Reseach Service shows the following allowances for former presidents for fiscal year 1990.
Richard Nixon, $407,202; Gerald Ford, $336,785; Jimmy Carter, $352,200; Ronald Reagan, $592,424.
Add to that the estimated $12.5 million for Secret Service protection (except for Mr. Nixon), these already independently wealthy guys are dunning us for more than $14 million per annum. Such compensation is "to provide a dignified retirement to former presidents."
As I recall, our forefathers fought the Revolutionary War to throw off the yoke of royalty. But through yet another irresponsible act of "good ol' boy" spendthrift Congress, we now provide a preposterous premium pay check to a few select pompous and pampered federal personnel, predicated on past performance, regardless of the quality of such performance or lenght of service.
All this after only four years, at best eight, on the job? C'mon. There are far more practical uses for that $14 million plus.
Albert N. Hartzel
Locust Grove, Va.