Opinion | It’s Time to Scare People About Covid – By Elisabeth Rosenthal – The New York Times

By 

Dr. Rosenthal is a contributing Opinion writer.

Outside of the Stephens Memorial Hospital emergency entrance in Breckenridge, Texas.
Credit…Desiree Rios for The New York Times

I still remember exactly where I was sitting decades ago, during the short film shown in class: For a few painful minutes, we watched a woman talking mechanically, raspily through a hole in her throat, pausing occasionally to gasp for air.

The public service message: This is what can happen if you smoke.

I had nightmares about that ad, which today would most likely be tagged with a trigger warning or deemed unsuitable for children. But it was supremely effective: I never started smoking and doubt that few if any of my horrified classmates did either.

When the government required television and radio stations to give $75 million in free airtime for antismoking ads between 1967 and 1970 — many of them terrifyingly graphic — smoking rates plummeted. Since then, numerous smoking “scare” campaigns have proved successful. Some even featured celebrities, like Yul Brynner’s posthumous offering with a warning after he died from lung cancer: “Now that I’m gone, don’t smoke, whatever you do, just don’t smoke.”

As the United States faces out-of-control spikes from Covid-19, with people refusing to take recommended, often even mandated, precautions, our public health announcements from governments, medical groups and health care companies feel lame compared to the urgency of the moment. A mix of clever catchphrases, scientific information and calls to civic duty, they are virtuous and profoundly dull.

Opinion | Donald Trump Did Something Right  – His administration ordered hospitals to reveal their prices. – By Elisabeth Rosenthal- The New York Times


Dr. Rosenthal was an emergency room doctor before becoming a journalist.

Jan. 21, 2019

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CreditCreditMike Ellis

“As Donald Trump was fighting with Congress over the shutdown and funding for a border wall, his administration implemented a new rule that could be a game-changer for health care.

Starting this month, hospitals must publicly reveal the contents of their master price lists — called “chargemasters” — online. These are the prices that most patients never notice because their insurers negotiate them down or they appear buried as line items on hospital bills. What has long been shrouded in darkness is now being thrown into the light.

For the moment, these lists won’t seem very useful to the average patient — and they have been criticized for that reason. They are often hundreds of pages long, filled with medical codes and abbreviations. Each document is an overwhelming compendium listing a rack rate for every little item a hospital dispenses and every service it performs: A blood test for anemia. The price of lying in the operating suite and recovery room (billed in 15-minute intervals). The scalpel. The drill bit. The bag of IV salt water. The Tylenol pill. No item is too small to be bar coded and charged.

But don’t dismiss the lists as useless. Think of them as raw material to be mined for billing transparency and patient rights. For years, these prices have been a tightly guarded industrial secret. When advocates have tried to wrest them free, hospitals have argued that they are proprietary information. And, hospitals claim, these rates are irrelevant, since — after insurers whittle them down — no one actually pays them.”