Jim Woster

Jim Woster

Olaf Tuntland, whom I have often referred to as my second dad, had open heart surgery at Mayo Clinic in 1977, which was about two years before the legendary Dr. Jim Reynolds performed the first open heart in Sioux Falls. As I recall, Olaf was hospitalized at Mayo for nearly two weeks, followed by months and months of cardiovascular rehabilitation.

My goodness, how times have changed as the “triple bypass,” assuming that some other method won’t do the trick, is about three days of hospitalization and often times less. The very popular and productive stent procedure normally results in, at most, an overnight stay and sometimes not even that. Total knee replacement, removal of a cancerous prostate, the double mastectomy, to name just a few, are also much quicker and certainly more effective.

Before I continue with my healthcare dissertation, I should inform the reader that Olaf’s heart condition surfaced shortly after he and I became partners in the cattle business. Should we consider that a coincidence? I think not. We operated under the business name of P & E Cattle Co., which represented the initials of our spouses, Penny and Edith. Upon learning of the venture and the new business name, Edith quietly replied, “P & E, huh? I’m betting it stands for pretty expensive.”

Edith’s comment was based upon 50 years of keeping books for Olaf, as he dabbled in many varied and often challenging business ventures. Guess what? Edith was right again, as she most often was.

Return with me to healthcare and I would begin with the fact that we are so very blessed in this country to have access to so many tests, procedures, physicians and facilities. In fact, it is not a stretch to shrink that blessing to the city of Sioux Falls.

We all remember when many if not most of the more serious health afflictions required a trip to Rochester, Minneapolis, Omaha or Denver – and those cities were the closest. Families, especially those in our rural communities, were forced to leave the kids and the chores to other family members or a band of neighbors because a return trip home required a long day. All of these negative implications were tripled when the patient’s affliction required a two- or three-week stay.

Certainly, there are still situations that can’t be dealt with in Sioux Falls, but each year those become fewer in number. In the current healthcare discussion, it is quite convenient to condemn access and cost. To a point, there is merit to the discussion. However, if it is your child or spouse in need of a expensive cure, that discussion becomes of less importance. Certainly, those in the profession must continue to do everything in their power to provide the very best at the least amount of money, and I believe that for the most part they do.

Okay, Mister Stockyards Guy, as long as you are pontificating on a topic that you know so little about, what would you do about cost and care for each and every citizen? To begin with, the city and state in which I live, at least in my opinion, do a very good job of caring for everyone, regardless of who they are. I have written before that I believe, at least in part, paying for the Medicare program should include the ability to pay.

Penny and I are far from wealthy and I suspect fairly representative of many couples in our region. Our lives would not change if we paid 10% more for our Medicare and received 10% less in payment for service. It would seem the only reasonable way to keep our system of healthcare and the related coverages viable for years to come.

We have children and grandchildren, who will soon be in need of the same good system, from which we benefit. The question becomes, should it be free? Absolutely not, because we already know that doesn’t work. However, we are a country that solves problems, and with the right people doing the solving the same can be accomplished with healthcare.

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Jim is associate editor of Tri-State Neighbor and also works with the SDSU Alumni Foundation.