On my way home from a BCBSNC meeting today, I stopped to indulge one of my guilty pleasures, eating at McDonald's, and a less-guilty pleasure, reading the Charlotte Observer. I practically choked on my chicken strip when I came upon this letter to the editor on the Forums page:

In response to "Health care insurers' profits up 56% in '09" (Feb. 12):
Huge profits to health insurers while uninsured die? Shameful
So health care insurers made a 56 percent profit in 2009, and there's no chance for reduced insurance bills in 2010?
Ironically the billions of dollars healthcare insurers have spent on lobbying politicians to keep the gravy train running would provide quality health care for every man, woman and child in America.
When health care is available for everyone, healthy babies become healthy adults who are productive and patriotic. To read that 44,000 people in the U.S. died last year because they couldn't afford health care is a disgrace.
L.T. Cantrell

I couldn't get in my car and head back to my computer fast enough! Since the odds that my letter will make it into print are probably slim, and make it into print unedited are slimmer still, here is my response:

BlankNo, no, NO! Obviously, someone needs a tutorial in basic business mathematics. A 56% increase in profits is not even remotely similar to Cantrell's erroneous statement that "health care insurers made a 56 percent profit in 2009." If a health insurer made, for example, a 2% profit in one year and then made 3.12% profit the next year, THAT is a 56% increase. And shame on you, Charlotte Observer, for printing a letter in the forums with such an erroneous and inflammatory statement!
We all know our health care system and methods of paying for said health care need fixing, but painting health insurers' low single-digit profits as the problem is putting the blame in the wrong place when pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies' profits are in the high teens.
Sharon Nuttall

I'm well aware that the Forum is open to everyone and is designed to be an opinion page, but you and I know that people see things "in the paper" all the time and assume they are accurate. I know the beleaguered Observer is down to about 2 full-time staffers, but wouldn't you think someone would have caught that egregious misstatement? And I'll try (probably unsuccessfully) to avoid thinking that it just might have been allowed to "slip" through in an un-accidental way.