Health Sense: You’ve Helped Me Explore Health Care; Let’s Do it More


A man with Lou Gehrig’s disease struggled to get a power wheelchair because Medicare, which would have covered the wheelchair while the man was in assisted living, wouldn’t pay after he moved to a nursing home.

A couple paid $850 a month for health insurance. But when the wife got a brain tumor that led to a $350,000 bill, she had no coverage because the company that provided the insurance went bankrupt.

An elderly woman got a $6,000 bill for rehab therapy, a service covered by Medicare after a three-day hospital stay, because her three days at St. Mary’s Hospital were deemed an “observation” stay, not an admission.

I learned about these challenges, and shared them with you, through writing this Health Sense column, launched a year ago this week.

As I wrote in the debut piece, our health care system is costly, confusing and exasperating — even though it’s filled with many people who have good intentions. I want readers to help me make sense of health care so we can all become better consumers of it.

I wrote in this space about a state Supreme Court ruling last year requiring doctors to tell patients about alternate diagnoses and tests (a bill before the Legislature would overturn the decision).

I explained that some clinics charge extra facility fees and patients can now see hospital inspection reports online. I discussed controversies over PSA testing for prostate cancer, hormone replacement therapy for post-menopausal women and traveling to other countries for alternative care.

I suggested readers take note of Choosing Wisely, a national effort to get patients and doctors to question the need for many tests and procedures. I summarized Honoring Choices Wisconsin, an advance care planning initiative you’ll likely hear more about soon, as well as a movement to curb early elective deliveries of babies.

I even told you about a nurse who underwent a fecal transplant for persistent diarrhea — not at a medical facility, but at home, using her husband’s feces, a blender and a turkey baster. (Note to online readers: That piece got way more hits than any other.)

Despite writing about all of these topics and many more, I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface in exploring why health care can be such a quagmire and how consumers can better navigate the system.

I’m eager to look into more issues in the coming year. The best ideas come from you and your experiences. So if you’ve got a story about the health care system, please contact me.