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Thumbs Up/Down - March 29, 2013


Thumbs Up: If you want to get a clearer understanding of skyrocketing health care costs, be sure to check out the March 4 special report from Time magazine, "Why Medical Bills are Killing Us" by Steven Brill. The cover photo provides an inkling of the well-researched article. It's a close-up of a single acetaminophen tablet, which, the story notes, costs 1.5 cents yet hospitals mark up 10,000 percent. The article contains many other references to insanely bloated bills for medications and procedures. One 64-year-old Connecticut woman, for instance, went to the hospital for chest pain. After three hours of tests, she was told she had indigestion but was billed $21,000 for the false alarm. (If she had waited a month until she was on Medicare, by the way, she would have only ended up paying $500 or $600.) The article also delves into why coming up with legislative solutions are so difficult: For every member of Congress, there are more than seven lobbyists working for various parts of the health care industry. The article ends with ideas for fixing the system: Tightening anti-trust laws to prevent hospitals from becoming so dominant that insurance companies are helpless in negotiating prices with them. Taxing hospital profits at 75 percent and imposing tax surcharges on non-doctor hospital salaries that are $750,000 or more. Reducing drug-makers prices to what they get in other developed countries. There are many more ideas as well. Read all 55 pages of the article. You'll feel infuriated, frustrated but enlightened.


Thumbs Up: We're not sure if it's the long winter but people seem to be especially grateful for the Alexandria Street Department's snow removal efforts. We've received a dozen or so positive comments about their work in recent weeks. Jim Johnsen of Alexandria said, "I want to give a 'thumbs up' to the Alexandria Street Department! They have kept my alley in mint condition this winter (last winter, too). They are perfectionists who deserve a thank you. They leave no piles of snow at the end of my driveway, or rocks on my lawn in the spring, either!" Another comment from Helen Kramer: "I want to say thanks to the city for the wonderful job they do on the streets. I am very impressed with them."


Thumbs Down: Here's a bonehead driving move we've been noticing lately: People making left turns in front of oncoming traffic on Broadway. They pull this stunt after waiting at an intersection and turn the instant after the light turns green, cutting in front of the drivers coming from the other direction. Apparently, they're just too busy to wait for the traffic to clear and they think they're entitled to scoot ahead of the slowpokes who are just starting to move through the intersection. It's that kind of selfish driving that leads to crashes, road rage and injuries.


Thumbs Up: The Viking Sportsmen will be holding its annual fundraising banquet on April 4. This is a group that's known as one of the most productive sportsmen's clubs in the state. Here are just some of the activities they do: Junior Viking Sportsmen Habitat Day, youth firearm safety training, Senior Citizens Fishing Day, Kids' Fishing, fishing piers and docks, walleye stocking, Lessard-Sams Legacy Act grants, Bill Banke Scholarship, Art Engelbrecht Conservation Scholarship, Kids Groundwater Festival, pheasant release and feeding programs, land restoration and land acquisition for public use. To support their efforts, mail your tax-deductible donation to Viking Sportsmen, PO Box 301, Alexandria, MN 56308. More information is available online at