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SEATTLE TIMES COLUMNIST ERIK LACITIS CHALLENGES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES TO ADDRESS HEALTH CARE CONCERNS

 SEATTLE TIMES COLUMNIST ERIK LACITIS CHALLENGES PRESIDENTIAL
 CANDIDATES TO ADDRESS HEALTH CARE CONCERNS
 SEATTLE, March 7 /PRNewswire/ -- The following was released today by the Seattle Times:
 Seattle Times columnist Erik Lacitis challenges this year's presidential candidates to answer the health care concerns of Seattle resident Karyne Pesho, who was outraged when she received a $4,056.84 hospital bill for her son's minor knee surgery which required only a five-hour hospital stay.
 Lacitis describes the situation, including the hospital's response to Pesho's complaint, in his Sunday, March 8, Seattle Times column.
 A copy of the column follows.
 In turn, Lacitis is sending a copy of the hospital bill, Pesho's letter to the hospital and a cover letter to each presidential candidates inviting them to address the matter. Voters rank the health care issue as one of the most crucial of the 1992 election.
 Hey, candidates: How would you handle this bill?
 Presidential candidates like to talk in slogans. Talking about specifics can get a little sticky, because they can be held accountable.
 This week I'm mailing Karyne Pesho's case to all the candidates, just to see if any of them respond.
 If one candidate can show Pesho how to lower this particular hospital bill from $4,056.84 to, say, $2,000, he just might get her vote.
 In this election year, everybody is talking about health-care reform. A serious illness can bankrupt a family. But I doubt anybody believes what the candidates have to say about it.
 Karyne Pesho certainly doesn't, and there are a lot of Karyne Peshos out there.
 As she points out, the $4,056.84 was for relatively minor knee surgery for her son, Ian. He was in the hospital less than five hours.
 She wants to know why hospitals charge $15 for a disposable paper gown, or $6 for a plastic ice bag, or $51 for physical therapy that, as best as she could determine, was for the few minutes it took somebody to show her son how to use crutches.
 So that's why I think it would be worth asking the candidates about an everyday hospital visit such as Ian's.
 He is 15, and a while back he started complaining that his knee was hurting. Ian wants to play basketball, and he was worried.
 The doctor said there was some cartilage either torn or floating around. The doctor also said it wouldn't take long to mend, that Ian could go home that same day.
 Ian was mended. As is usual practice, Highline Community Hospital sent the bill to the insurance company. As is usual practice, the Peshos had to pay the deductible. In this case it was $811.37.
 The Peshos are not wealthy. Karyne is a paralegal. Her husband, Greg, works in a hotel storeroom.
 You could say Karyne was a little upset. But when she called about the bill, the insurance company explained there was nothing unusual about it. As a matter of fact, Highline Community, when compared to other hospitals, is under the median in costs.
 Karyne Pesho wasn't satisfied.
 "I absolutely cannot believe that a fee of $4,056.84 can be ethically charged for services that were (1) not an emergency, (2) did not involve vital organs, and (3) involved a stay in the hospital of a total of less than five hours... This was for surgery on a knee... not brain surgery," she wrote the hospital.
 She asked for an itemization of her bill. She got back a two-page listing of more than 50 items. Here are a few, as noted on the statement:
 Surgery 1.25 HR, $584.
 Electrocautery units, $54.72.
 Fiberoptic light, $22.
 Pneumatic tquet, $44.
 Arthroscope - use of, $330.
 Recovery room - .75 HR, $75.
 Monitor, $41.
 Pulse oximeter, $40.
 IV primary 3Y site, $3.54.
 IV soln 250-1000 ML, $28.65.
 Fentanyl 5 ML inj, $12.96
 Day surgery room, $240.
 Dressing, adaptic, $5.75.
 Sponge, 4-4 10/PG, quantity 2, $10.
 Bag, ice collar disp, $6.
 Towels, 6/PKG sterile, quantity 2, $28.
 Tray, shave prep, $5.
 Cautery, pencil, $24.
 Gown, disp, quantity 2, $30.
 Pack, arthroscopy, $647.
 Pin, absorbable-ortho, quantity 3, $956.25.
 Physical therapy, $51.
 Carol Hallen, assistant administrator at Highline, got to deal with Karyne's questions.
 "I'm not arguing that costs are high," she said. "But... "
 To summarize the "buts," when Ian was charged $6 for a plastic ice bag, Hallen said, he was also being charged for a few more things:
 Like the $2 million in charity cases the hospital handled last year. Like expensive machines with names such as magnetic resonance imaging ($2 million), cardiac cath lab ($1 million) and a CAT scan ($1 million). Like the costs of having in stock all kinds of hospital supplies. Like the salaries of nurses and other staff.
 I told Karyne Pesho all of this, and told her that Hallen said the hospital was a nonprofit organization that pumped its 1.5 percent in profits right back into Highline.
 Pesho didn't sound very convinced. After all the explanations, it still came out to $4,056.84 for a minor stay in the hospital.
 "I am truly appalled at the charges...," she said. "This is why people who do not have insurance do not go to a doctor until forced, and then it may be too late."
 By the time you're reading this, I'll have mailed Karyne Pesho's letter to all the candidates. Any guesses as to who will respond, if any?
 (Erik Lacitis' column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Friday in the Scene Section of The Times).
 -0- 3/7/92
 /CONTACT: Erik Lacitis of The Seattle Times, 206-464-2237/ CO: The Seattle Times; Highline Community Hospital ST: Washington IN: HEA SU:


LM-SC -- SESA1 -- 6126 03/07/92 13:00 EST
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