The insurance maze

I read “A $60,000 dilemma” [Nov. 6] with great interest. I can relate to the confusion/obfuscation/maze of decisions in deciding what kind of insurance plan to enroll in. I’m certainly no health economist, nor professor, nor PhD from Harvard, but I just had to chuckle.

Even with an extensive medical health background, making a health-care insurance decision is a gamble. You just never quite know where you’re going to land, or if the insurance changes midyear, or if the doctor opts out of the network midstream, or if you get transferred by work and have to start the whole process all over again somewhere else. And I am very fortunate health- and insurance-wise; not all are so blessed.

Thanks for being so honest explaining that even with the best health educational perspective, you make a choice and hope it works. Sort of like what every Medicare enrollee seeking supplemental care insurance must now face. I can’t even understand the complexities enough to explain it to my 85-year-old mother.

Heidi Sproat, Frederick

Besides having the education needed to navigate the insurance and health-care system, an advantage most people don’t have, Dahlia Remler has one other advantage: She can afford to travel out of state to get the needed in-network health care.

Readers respond to articles about health-insurance choices and nutirtional supplements. (The Washington Post)

If she took the cost of traveling for her surgery into consideration and presumably hotel accommodations and other expenses for her husband or family member to be with her, would that have made up the difference between the HMO and the POS insurance for that year? Surely, as a health economist, she would have to take that into consideration, too.

Phyllis Edelman, Bethesda

Dahlia Remler responds:

Travel expenses were in the high hundreds of dollars, counting the hotel. Moreover, we could have chosen to stay with friends or family (harder) or used a cheaper hotel, not near the hospital but for which they provide a shuttle. I do not have the exact number, but that was less than the premium difference.

The safety of supplements

Regarding “At times, supplements do more harm than good” [Nov. 6]: Consumer Reports warns that supplements — especially ones that illegally contain prescription drugs or that are taken in extremely large doses — can be dangerous. To which we respectfully say, “Duh.”

Americans are aware of the (relatively minimal) risks and still choose to use supplements. Numerous university research articles demonstrate the usefulness of supplements for health. Besides, when compared with the dangers of even the most benign over-the-counter medications (such as aspirin, which had 87,600 adverse events reported to the FDA in the past eight years), the safety record for supplements is remarkably appealing.

Despite continued supplement fear-mongering in the media, many health-conscious Americans are integrating supplements into their daily regimens to maintain and even improve their health.

Gretchen DuBeau, Executive Director, Alliance for Natural Health USA, Bethesda

DuBeau’s group advocates for natural-health practitioners and consumers.