Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Medical bruohaha needs context

A letter I am sending today to the local paper

To the editor:

The News Times and Connecticut's various versions of television news have repeatedly run stories that illegal immigrants are costing Danbury Hospital $4 million in unpaid bills. The figure has been cited over and over again. Any reporter and any thinker worth his salt knows a figure without context can be a little like holding a dime up next to the moon on a dark night or looking at one line from a drawing. Could be the side of a skyscraper. Then again it could be the side of a jelly jar.

There are two numbers without which the $4 million dollar figure is completely meaningless. It is necessary to know the total amount billed out for medical care (both paid and unpaid) by the same hospital during the same time period - and also how much was spent by that hospital covering for medical care for uninsured and UNDERINSURED American Citizens.

Then there must be a comparison - what percentage of the total billed out for medical care does that $4 million represent? And what is the percentage of the total for the unpaid bills of citizens? Give us context and then we'll know how to consider that $4 million. I suspect we are whining about the jelly jar when we should be furious about the skyscraper...

ADENDUM - As of Dec, The Danbury News Times never chose to print this. They never even called to confirm the letter sender as is usual at most newspapers.