Monday, July 14, 2008

things are moving and shaking

My letter to the editor of Boise Weekly was published on July 9 and on July 13th the Idaho Statesman did an article on where the profits of the not-for-profits of the Treasure Valley go. I like to think My letter was the inspiration, but either way there is dialog about what should be expected of not-for-profit hospitals and questions about their generous mark ups on services rendered. Its sort of a split article. The article is pretty defensive of St. Luke's and St. Al's, but there is a box of additional information to the side of the main article, which contains some pretty incriminating stats and great links.

I especially found the link to very informative and HELPFUL. The website is run by the Fairness Foundation and provides free information about every hospital in the United States and how much each individual hospital marks up the bill from its actual costs. The website provides tools for negotiating fair prices for the uninsured and under-insured, since they are often charged at least 2.5 times more than the insurance companies and the insured for the very same procedure. Righteous site, indeed.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


My editorial about St.Luke's was published in the Boise Weekly. You can check it out below or read the perfectly punctuated version by clicking on the link above.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Do you know your child's cholesterol?

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement today saying it suggests screening children for high cholesterol as early as age two. The AAP suggests that "cholesterol-lowering medications [LIPITOR] should considered" when treating a child, over the age of eight, with high LDL levels. Pfizer's LIPITOR patient information guide, states that the popular medication can cause "...serious muscle problems that can lead to kidney problems, including kidney failure." Liver problems are also listed as a "rare but serious" side effect. LIPITOR is the best selling drug in pharmaceutical history, with revenues of over $12 billion in 2007. Pfizer's patent on LIPITOR runs out in 2010. The new pediatric application could be grounds for a patent extension.

I'll let you you digest these facts on your own. Remember though, the doctors are the ones prescribing children this drug.

American Academy of Pediatrics Press Release

LIPITOR Patient Information


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Dear Sir,

This is a letter I wrote in response to an article in the Boise Weekly titled "Poor Farm Boise--County charity funds fill hospital coffers" It was a great article. Read it.

Dear Editor,

Nathaniel Hoffman's article "Poor Farm Boise" was spot on (BW, News, June 25, 2008). I was proud that he called out the normally sacrosanct hospitals, such as St. Luke's, that profit from the distress of the poor and the sick.

St. Luke's is, technically, a not-for-profit hospital, which enables them to be exempt from county, state and federal taxes. In order to maintain this tax-exempt status they must provide some sort of a community benefit and then publish the benefits provided in an annual report. According to the 2006 annual report, St. Luke's (Boise/Meridian) profited over $46 million.

Of course, this $46 million is not labeled as profit in the report, but instead, "The excess of available income over expenses in support of our mission." I think this label rivals "correctional facility" as one of the most ineffective euphemisms ever concocted. The report goes on to state that St. Luke's provided $27 million in unreimbursed care for Medicare patients. Basically, that $27 million is composed of the difference between the initial hospital charges, which are always inflated, and how much Medicare pays after it adjusts the cost.

I pose two questions to St. Luke's: how much unreimbursed care did you provide for your cronies, the insurance companies? Whatever the amount, I am certain that it dwarfs the discounts given to Medicaid or Medicare. Why not charge everybody one fair and reasonable price? As Paul Woods points out in Hoffman's article, lots of time and energy are wasted in haggling a fair price.

Christian Hatchett