So, what is great journalism?


(re: “Slow road to reforming health care,” Oct. 10)

The Riverdale Press creates devoted readers because, in an era of misinformation and disinformation, it pours ink and effort into critical issues — issues New York City readers care about. It exemplifies the edict that good journalism’s first loyalty is to citizens.

For this, we should all applaud its “Press Special Report” on health care — a team effort by editor Michael Hinman and reporters Kirstyn Brendlen and Heather J. Smith. By approaching the dysfunction of our current corporate-run health care from many angles, the special report illustrates why health care — and, specifically, single-payer health care, the New York Health Act and Medicare for All — has become one of the most urgent election topics across the Bronx, New York and the United States.

The Press’ first-person stories give voice to how for-profit insurance harms all of us. It harms families, causing a reporter to choose between her mom’s welfare and keeping her job. Derivative for-profit businesses that “help” patients access insurance benefits are no better. To wit, the agency that took $10,000 from Heather Smith, provided no help for seven months, and required an “explosive phone call” simply to get what her mom had been entitled to from the beginning.

Corporate-run insurance also harms doctors — most now spend twice as much time on insurance-required drudgery as with patients. As the medical student and the speech pathologist you interviewed explained, their training focused on healing.

Most physicians support single-payer systems because our multi-payer, corporate-run insurance system prioritizes profits over patient health — so interfering with physicians’ diagnoses and treatment that most give up independent practice.

No wonder American doctors have the highest suicide rate of any American profession, over half suffering from burnout. Physicians feel helpless when insured patients can’t afford their diagnoses and treatment — profoundly helpless that 50 percent of all New Yorkers with insurance delay seeing physicians or forego prescriptions until their conditions become dire.

In short, the special report includes a wide variety of voices and insightful commentary. The associated editorial (re: “Patience for health patients,” Oct. 10) also notes the excessive (and steadily rising) cost of corporate-run insurance, and supports the idea of non-profit New York Health because it could begin to fix our frustratingly broken — and financially ruinous — system.

But there are several instances of quoting mutually exclusive propositions.

The most egregious example of tossing contradictions together, “Perspective from a future doctor” begins, “If single-payer health care is passed in New York … expect the sky to fall.” Am I naïve to expect that a story with that headline would begin with the “future doctor’s perspective”?

Why is a corporate shill — a public relations person from California with no relevant degrees — given precedence over two local Bronx residents, one a Norwood OB/GYN, the other studying to be a doctor and confident that a single-payer plan will enable him to fulfill his dream of practicing unhampered by the onerous paperwork that obstructs his mother’s practice? Yes, it was good to see both “California conservative think tank” qualifying Sally Pipes, and also “without citing her source.” But neither justifies quoting her, much less making her the lede.

A few other unresolved contradictions: New York Health will not require federal waivers, as one letter to the editor claimed. And New York is currently paying almost $300 billion for health care today — $160 billion of it funded by taxes, and the rest also emptying our pockets. That “huge, new” $138 billion tax bite? We’re already paying it, but we call it “premiums” and “cost-sharing.”

Tax flight? Research using IRS data confirms that people move for jobs, for cheaper housing, and for climate. Not taxes. And Vermont? The plan was neither universal nor single-payer.

Similarly, transitioning to New York Health requires no changes in actual delivery. New York Health is not “government-run health care.” It’s “social insurance,” i.e. financing. Transitioning will involve providers redirecting their invoices around a single-set of comprehensive benefits, reimbursed above Medicare rates.

Urging “patience” — as the editorial does — means that, while we wait for universal affordable health care, three New Yorkers die needlessly each day. And nearly 10 million of us who have insurance cannot afford doctors and medicine.

State sen. Gustavo Rivera was expected to hold a public hearing on New York Health on Oct. 23 at the Bronx Library Center. We hope The Riverdale Press — continuing its groundbreaking coverage — attended, and heard why patience isn’t a cure.

Your devoted readers count on you.


Have an opinion? Share your thoughts as a letter to the editor. Make your submission to letters@riverdalepress.com. Please include your full name, phone number (for verification purposes only), and home address (which will not be published).
Judith Esterquest,