Karl Heggland, DDS: Article slanted against doctors
Alpine OMS, Frisco
Having read, and now re-read, the “Pricier mountain doctors…” article of Jan. 20, I believe I must respond to some of the statements contained therein, and to the overall tone of the piece.
First, your headline is suggestive of a prejudice on your part. To use the appellation “pricier mountain doctors” as the bold lead in to an article that purports to be part of a substantive discussion on health care is somewhat insulting to my colleagues in internal medicine, primary care, and family practice, and a profound disservice to your readers. Your title evokes images of unscrupulous individuals deliberately price gouging patients for their own selfish gains – nothing could be further from the truth.
Second, the very first sentence of this piece (“Like just about everything else in the High Country, it typically costs more to see a doctor here than on the Front Range.”) offers insight into the higher costs of a “routine physical” here in the mountains over the same exam in the Front Range cities, but you then veer away from its substance and into repeating the speculations of others regarding the potential reasons for such differences.
Third, you quote Howard Hallman as saying, “Consumers should know more about what the going rate is so prices don’t vary as much.” If this quote is accurate, it indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the “cost of health care.” Knowledge of the “going rate” for any service doesn’t impart any knowledge at all. The production of any service, whether health care or auto repairs, depends upon the costs of producing it. As such, you must be more educated on the cost of producing a given service in the given service area before you can know anything about what prices are, and to try to prevent them from varying “so much.”
Fourth, the shortsighted comparison of the “informal survey” reportedly done by Our Future Summit also misrepresents, or under-reports, the facts of that data. Did they only compare private practitioners to other private practitioners, or did they compare large groups like Kaiser to small practices? Were government-run clinics like the one now enjoyed by the Summit County employees included? Was any thought given to which other entities were supported by tax dollar subsidies? Certainly the Community Care Clinic here in Frisco can provide a service for a low fee, but that doesn’t mean the costs are any lower, the costs are just defrayed by tax dollars taken to subsidize the operations of such a clinic.
I know doctors in this community who deliberately keep many of their fees lower than those found in typical Front Range communities as in incentive for patients to stay here and support the local practitioners. In spite of incurring higher costs to produce the same service, these doctors are cutting their income of their own volition, and making it harder to support themselves and their families. How many other businesses do the same?
I know doctors in this community who intentionally provide care free of charge to hundreds of patients in need each year. I’m unaware of other business owners who do the same, I’m sure they’re out there, and I’m equally sure they’re not being inadvertently disparaged for what they do charge for their services either.
Maybe next week we’ll see an article based on another “informal survey” from Our Future Summit on the “Pricier lift ticket prices” in comparison to ski areas in Nebraska? Your readers and the doctors of this community deserve better than for ostensibly well intentioned individuals to cast such poorly presented information into the public dialogue.
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