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In April’s letters: divergent opinions on Michelle Obama and some second opinions on our health care coverage

A HOUSE DIVIDED

In your February cover story on Michelle Obama [The Making of a First Lady, by Carol Felsenthal], you write that “Michelle Obama drives feminists nuts by insisting that her main concern when she arrives at the White House will be Malia and Sasha.” Who are these “feminists” you allude to? You fail to include a quote from anyone voicing this “criticism” that you claim Mrs. Obama has sparked by her pledge to “devote herself full-time to making sure her daughters adjust to their new lives.” In fact, it is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine anyone criticizing a mother for making her children’s well-being her first priority when those children have been uprooted from their home and thrust into the public eye in the way that Malia and Sasha have been. (In fact, mothers in politics are more often criticized for failing to consider their children’s well-being. Look at Sarah Palin.) To suggest, as you do, that feminists react critically to Mrs. Obama’s demonstrated commitment to her children—when, in truth, Michelle Obama is the embodiment of all that feminism stands for—is part of the reason that “feminist” remains a dirty word in this country. Shame on you.

Emily Paster
River Forest

 

I enjoyed reading your recent profile on First Lady Michelle Obama. The insight into her deep roots, work history, and everyday life in Chicago was both touching and empowering to this young city girl. It will be wonderful to watch Sasha, Malia, and this entire country grow up with that kind of woman by their side. Although it is her husband’s chosen slogan, Michelle is the one who truly gives me hope.

Kelly Purkey
Chicago

 

I nearly dropped the [February] issue of Chicago magazine as I got it out of the mailbox and caught Michelle Obama’s face on the cover. What message are we sending our daughters when we praise and almost deify a woman who rode into the spotlight on her husband’s coattails? Please do not confuse celebrity with accomplishment.

Steven Cieckiewicz
Chicago

 

CARE PACKAGE

As our nation sinks further into a recession, millions of families struggle to make ends meet—health care is often a casualty of their financial problems. Your [feature] How to Deal with a Medical Crisis [by Graham Meyer, January] illustrates a problem experienced by a growing number of Americans: Our health care system is broken, and it needs solutions that address the issues of cost, access, and quality.

In Illinois, health insurance premiums rose 5.6 times faster than median earnings between 2000 and 2007. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, although 63 percent of employers offered health benefits in 2008, average premiums for family health-insurance coverage increased 119 percent between 1999 and 2008, forcing many families to make hard decisions between paying for health care and paying for other basic necessities.

We clearly have a problem, and fixing health care doesn’t just need to be a concern for our elected officials—it needs to be a priority. Our elected officials in Washington, D.C., and Springfield should set aside partisan differences and tackle the problem. In Illinois, we need our state legislators to support legislation that not only improves our health care, but makes it more accessible and affordable.

We need to reform the insurance industry to ensure that sick people do not get denied coverage when they need it most, and that underserved age groups have the access they need and deserve.

Bob Gallo
AARP Illinois
Senior State Director
Chicago

 

When diagnosed with a serious medical condition, patients and their loved ones are naturally overwhelmed and may be unsure what questions to ask. Graham Meyer provided Chicago readers with valuable insight and information in his article How to Deal with a Medical Crisis, but he left out one of the most important questions any patient should ask his or her doctor: “Are you board certified, and if so, in what specialty?”

Board certification is perhaps the single most important way to find out if doctors have the knowledge, experience, and skills necessary to practice their medical specialty. Licensed physicians certified by an ABMS member board participate in an extensive voluntary process that involves completing accredited education and training in their specialty, and periodically passing rigorous oral and written exams.

Asking the right questions and finding the right doctor are essential to quality care. Asking about board certification should be at the top of the list.

Kevin B. Weiss, M.D.
President and CEO, American Board of Medical Specialties
Evanston

 

I read with interest your article on how to cope with a medical crisis. While a lot of the things said are very helpful, I strongly disagree with your recommendation that one should always get a second opinion. Can you imagine what that would do to the already superinflated costs of health care?

It is scary to be sick. But for the most part, patients seek doctors’ help for problems that are common and dealt with very competently at the community level, including most cancers. If you have a problem that is hard to diagnose or a rare disease, by all means go to an academic center (and your doctor will probably be the first to suggest that you do so). If you don’t like your doctor or what he or she is telling you, by all means get a second opinion. But all patients with a common cold don’t need to go to the Mayo Clinic.

Another word of caution is that in this day and age of available information on the Internet, some patients think that they know more than their doctors. Let me just say that computer proficiency does not equal medical training. In the end, your doctor is the one who knows best what is good for you.

Rada Ivanov, M.D.
River Forest

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