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Annie's Mailbox

Managing health with quality care

September 21, 2011

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Q. We all know that health care is expensive and that finding good, affordable care can be tough. There is a way your readers can avoid unnecessary heath care bills: by learning what high-quality care looks like.

We spend a whopping $700 billion a year on health care in America for tests, procedures, medical appointments, hospital stays, and other services that don’t improve one’s health. As a society, we get an awful lot of health care that helps us feel better - even saves our lives - but also a lot that is unnecessary or wrong and can be dangerous. Sometimes we don’t receive the care we should be getting to treat our conditions.

During the month of September, we are asking Americans to “Care About Your Care.’’ We want people to understand, identify, and receive care that is safe and effective. Your readers can go to to learn how to recognize - and demand - high-quality care.

JOHN R. LUMPKIN, M.D., Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

A. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to mention your website, which offers suggestions for readers to learn how to best manage their health. It is vitally important that we recognize the most effective ways to protect ourselves and stay well.

Q. Family get-togethers have turned into a big headache. My siblings have become very picky eaters. One has self-imposed dietary restrictions, another is a semi-vegan, another won’t eat beef, another only will eat free-range chicken, and one doesn’t eat vegetables of a certain color.

Last year I told them that I will make the main dishes, and they can bring side dishes. They said that would be too difficult, as they live too far away and the food wouldn’t be fresh. In order to accommodate everyone, I would have to have a personal chef. Eating out isn’t an option since we live in a semi-rural area and there aren’t a lot of restaurants.

It seems to me they could eat what’s on the table as best they can. This is really annoying me. What can I do before the holidays start?


A. There is a limit to how accommodating you need to be. Prepare a meal that the majority will eat. Have enough side dishes so no one will starve. Tell them you hope they enjoy the meal but you will understand if they choose to go elsewhere. Smile politely and ignore any negative comments about the food. We suspect they will find a way to nibble on something.

Q. May I add another story about not getting a condolence card from the doctor’s office? A few years ago, I received a condolence card addressed to my family from my doctor’s office, signed by all the doctors and personnel. They thought I had died. They said many nice things about how I would be missed and how well I was liked.

I called the office and said I was still alive and would be in soon for my annual checkup. The receptionist checked her records and said, “Oh, my! It says you are deceased!’’ I told her at least I found out what they thought of me. We both had a good laugh over that.

I have a fairly common name and understand how it might have happened. My records were changed, and I breathed a sigh of relief.


Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.