I had the unpleasant duty of taking a 91-year-old neighbor to one of our local “health facilities,” suspecting his apparent illness was more serious than a head cold. After chest X-rays, the attending doctor in the emergency room confirmed pneumonia in both lungs and wanted my neighbor to stay at the hospital. This kind and caring doctor said if the patient were 40 or 50 years old he would probably send him home with meds, but at 91 years of age it is a much more serious concern.

Before leaving my neighbor in the care of the hospital, I alerted him to be cognizant of the conditions under which the hospital would keep him. He, like most, was completely unaware of the difference between being admitted “for observation” versus “for treatment.” Merely being observed does not qualify for coverage under Medicare, so long after you are released, the bad news arrives in the mail and cannot be changed.

A doctor assigned to treat my neighbor told him they were keeping him “for observation” to which he objected, and after much discussion it was decided he would be “treated” instead.

This is criminal. What seems as innocent semantics can have devastating financial repercussions. Our health care “system” is as much responsible for the staggering cost of health care as any other factor, and such practices should be stopped.

If we need another law that requires them to advise patients before being admitted, so be it. The buck must stop somewhere.

John Burns, Miramar Beach