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Opinion | Ross Douthat’s Change of Heart About Health Care

To the Editor:

Re “Being Sick Changed My Views on Health Care,” by Ross Douthat (column, Jan. 20):

I say to Mr. Douthat, “Welcome aboard; now keep on moving leftward.”

Ross, if you can become more left-wing about one issue, medical care, because it affected you personally, then why not on myriad other things that affect other Americans?

Why is it that you and other conservatives who aren’t mean or cheap or bad people can be “left-wing” only when you can see it and touch it personally? There are countless examples — conservatives who finally embrace L.G.B.T.Q. rights when their child or neighbor comes out, or see addiction as a problem when it shows up in their family, and so on.

Good work, Ross, but please keep moving!

Steven Carlson
Easton, Conn.

To the Editor:

I find shocking Ross Douthat’s conclusion that “whatever everyday health insurance coverage is worth to the sick person, a cure for a heretofore-incurable disease is worth more.” Really? For millions of people, do family security, reduced depression and financial stress, and increased use of health services — all findings from the Oregon Medicaid study that Mr. Douthat cites — count so little?

Mr. Douthat’s policy prescriptions are skewed by his personal experience. If his experience had been the anxiety of delayed health care or threatened bankruptcy, that would skew his lens differently.

Moreover, there are many disincentives to innovation that have little to do with universal coverage. The medical establishment is by its nature conservative and unwelcoming to pathfinders; many solutions are not profitable because they’re cheap or the numbers affected are small; and huge resources are wasted on drug advertising and insurance bureaucracies that are rarely patient-friendly.

Opinion Conversation
Questions surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine and its rollout.

A cure for some versus health coverage for all? These are choices we need not make. We can do better.

Lois Salisbury
Sausalito, Calif.
The writer is founding chair of Health Access California.

To the Editor:

Ross Douthat’s experience with chronic Lyme disease misguides him to faulty conclusions about health care in America. Chronic Lyme disease is real, but there are no proven treatments. Mr. Douthat received an unorthodox alternative treatment. Does he think that medical insurance should pay for such treatment? I hope not, since there are alternative, unproven treatments for almost every disease. Many are dangerous — even deadly.

Moreover, symptoms of chronic Lyme disease are known to get less severe over time and may often disappear altogether. Thus, the “treatment” may have done nothing. A placebo. The tincture of time may have done the same thing.

Mr. Douthat needs to reconsider his thoughts about what’s wrong with health care in America.

David J. Knesper
Ann Arbor, Mich.
The writer is a retired psychiatrist.

To the Editor:

Re “Put Down Your No. 2 Pencil: SAT Will Go Digital by 2024” (news article, Jan. 26):

The College Board is not fooling anyone in its desperate efforts to maintain its profitable business, despite its putative nonprofit status. When the SAT goes completely digital, it will be even less fair to disadvantaged students, who may not have the online access necessary to practice repeatedly for the test.

In contrast, working with paper and pencil is more accessible for low-income students, as well as a skill most are familiar with anyway because of state standardized testing in public schools.

A reader does not need excellent reading comprehension to deduce the main idea of the College Board’s announcement: An official plainly alludes to the board’s struggle to remain relevant and says many colleges and universities are making test scores optional, so she wants “the SAT to be the best possible option for students.”

The College Board’s goal is to perpetuate its hegemony in the testing industry, and it will never be a leader in promoting equity, inclusion or transparency.

Donna Gitter
New York
The writer is a professor of law at Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business, City University of New York.

To the Editor:

Here is a scenario that the general public should consider: Two 65-year-old women come to the hospital emergency department needing treatment in the I.C.U. One is vaccinated and has had a heart attack; the other is unvaccinated and is suffering from Covid pneumonia. There is only one bed available. Who should get that bed?

Should the woman with the heart attack be denied appropriate care because of the other’s “personal choice?” And perhaps more troublesome from an ethical standpoint, should the unvaccinated person be “rewarded” for her vaccination choice with the precious resource of an I.C.U. bed? Is there a price to pay for remaining unvaccinated?

Jonathan D. Glass
Atlanta
The writer is a neurologist.

To the Editor:

Re “Is Pluto a Planet?” (interactive, Science, Jan. 18):

I am an astronomer who participated in finding the sizes of Pluto and some other outer-solar-system objects. When several objects comparable in size or mass to Pluto were found, the number of “planets” we ask the third graders of this world to memorize got too large, and it made sense to promote Pluto to the biggest and best of a new class of object, “dwarf planet.” (The Sun, after all, is a “dwarf star.”)

Let’s hope the third graders learn what the eight planets are like and not just count them — and they can learn what Pluto’s fascinating surface and atmosphere are like, too.

Jay M. Pasachoff
Williamstown, Mass.
The writer is a professor of astronomy at Williams College.

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