The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 21, 2008

Universal health coverage is needed

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to Kerry Kissinger’s Forum article of March 14. I know Kerry and respect him, but I must disagree with his claim that the American healthcare system is just fine.

My disagreement is in two parts: statistical and personal. The first is easily disposed of. My friends, this is an immensely complicated issue, and statistics can be selectively cited to support or disprove any position from lunatic-fringe libertarianism to Scandinavian-style socialized medicine. They cancel each other out.

Throughout my life I have invariably found economic conservatives to be quite well off economically. Having “got theirs” through intelligence and hard work (I don’t know any trust-fund babies), they just can’t grasp why everybody else can’t do the same. Asked about a single mother living in a drafty slum apartment whose child has asthma and who can’t afford medical insurance. I hear something like, “She shouldn’t have had children she couldn’t take care of.” Wow. Suffer the little children indeed.

As for people denied coverage because of “pre-existing conditions” such as juvenile diabetes, hypertension, angina or depression, well, we must remember that HMOs aren’t in this business for their health.

Kerry, we have 300 million people in this country today. Only a small minority are as smart, successful and prudent as you. The rest lead difficult lives, weighing rent or mortgage payments against utilities against food against car payments against tuition payments for their children against, yes, private medical insurance, if they can even get it. Their algorithms are, I promise you, much more complicated than those you ran for hospitals and doctors’ offices, because if they make even a small mistake, they are sunk.

It is for them that we need to join the rest of the wealthy countries of the world in developing some type of universal health coverage.

Roger Goulet

Westford Street

Forum essay praised

To the Editor:

I have been in the health care industry for 28 years, as a chairman of a Boston teaching hospital and owner and president of a private non-profit hospital. In the hundreds of articles, papers, etc. that I have read over the years few would match the succinct, articulate, and thoughtful comments of Kerry Kissinger in your recent Mosquito edition. My congratulations to him.

John Valentine

Acton Street

Lyme disease prevention starts with knowledge

To the Editor:

Mr. Berube (Mosquito 3/7) and Mr. Brewster (Mosquito 3/14) both appear to assume that deer ticks are riding into their yards on deer. This is a misunderstanding that does not belong in the discussion of deer population management. The deer tick, also known as the black legged tick, may live as adults on deer, but cannot contract Lyme disease from infected deer.

Indeed, according to NIH, “uninfected tick larvae pick up the bacterium the first summer of their two-year life cycle while taking their first blood meal from infected small animal such as the white footed mouse. The white footed mouse is considered a key animal reservoir for Lyme disease. One year later, after the larva develops into a nymph, it feeds on a second animal host, possibly a human, infecting that host. Roughly 90 percent of human infections are contracted from nymphal ticks.” (NIH News, 12/13/04). And from the Cary Institute, “Lyme disease is a zoonotic disease where human risk is correlated with rodent host density. White-footed mice are the primary host for the vector species, blacklegged ticks. As white-footed mouse populations increase so does human infection risk.” (March/April 2004 lES Newsletter).

To inaccurately blame deer who munch on our hedges as the major culprits in the epidemic rise of Lyme disease reduces the discussion to a witch hunt and thwarts the mobilization of resources for study and deployment of the most ecologically balanced solutions for the best outcomes for humans living in areas where infected animals are abundant.

What may be of graver concern however is the prospect of both a caring parent and physician inadvertently dismissing symptoms of Lyme disease in an infected child. Until we are able to eliminate the potential for infection in our backyards, our best defense against the suffering caused by Lyme disease is to be suspicious and proactively knowledgeable. No diagnostic system is perfect, including currently approved blood tests, but being personally well informed about prevention as well as symptoms, diagnostics and treatments may mean the difference between a long painful illness and none at all.

Annie Halvorsen

Pine Brook Road

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito