Monday, March 21, 2016

The Trouble with Alpha – Erich

The Greeks, of course, use the Greek Alphabet. Though English is widely spoken and the Latin Alphabet (the one we use) is also frequently seen. And that can lead to the problem of transliteration.

Take for example, alpha. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek Alphabet (as is evidenced by the word “alphabet” a short version of the first two letters in Greek, alpha and beta.) Now in Greek, if one were writing out the word “alpha” one would write αλφα or in capital letters ΑΛΦΑ.

That third letter, φ or Φ is what we call “phi”. So when you transliterate Greek words that have a phi in them, which sounds like an f, do you use “ph” or do you use “f”? The answer is, it isn't so simple.

Here is a logo from Alfa foods, a brand you see in the grocery store that makes frozen and canned goods. They have chosen to transliterate with the “f”. But one of the big financial institutions one sees around Athens is Alpha Bank. Here is their logo. As you can see, they went with the “ph”.

Sometimes, the trouble isn't the word or the pronunciation, just how does it transliterate from one place to another?

That brings me to a more serious topic than the alphabet: health care. (If you prefer to make that one word, healthcare, please go right ahead. At my last job at PA College of Health Sciences we had brand standards, because how can you possibly teach algebra without them, right? And one of our brand standards specified that health care had to be two words. Except for the exceptions, but we won't get into those.)

Carver was not seeing as well. It was time to look into a new prescription for his glasses. So we went to an ophthalmologist. (There is another example of choosing the “ph” as here the ophthalmologist is called the οφθαλμιατρος.)

As we all know in this season of presidential politics, the European Union has an extensive system of health care in which every citizen is covered. We are not citizens of any EU nation, and so we had to pay full price. And that was thirty euros. Or about thirty-three dollars.

That was a trip to the doctor, drops to dilate the pupils, all the tests, and a prescription written for thirty-three dollars. It would have cost me a lot more in the U.S.A.

Alrica has to have periodic scans as a follow up to the cancer that was removed in July. In South Africa, she had two x-rays and that cost $90. In France, she had to have an x-ray and a CT scan, which is much more expensive. Plus, France is one of the pricier European nations. And that cost us about $220. This would have been well over a thousand, maybe two-thousand, in the states.

This is how it relates to the alpha problem. Saying we should have a system of national healthcare (throwing branding standards to the wind) similar to that in the European Union is a great idea. I believe it is something that a society should provide to keep that society strong. But I don't think that we can just transliterate the EU system into our own country. Why? Because our costs are out of control.

The first thing we have to do is figure out why every procedure costs more in the US than anywhere else in the world. Not just a little bit more. We're talking an order of magnitude more in some cases. Who is getting all of this money?

Once we find the source of the price gouging, then we need to make changes that allow our prices to become realistic. If Alrica can get a CT scan and x-ray in France for $220, it's the same equipment in the USA. The doctors require the same amount of training. There must be a way to get the costs of healthcare down to levels comparable to other countries. That is something that all parties, whether they like national healthcare or call it “socialism” must do.

After costs have been reined in, then we can more seriously discuss how to insure our population. Let's do this now. Let's make this part of the national conversation.

It's time for the United States to find a way to have affordable care that is still at the alpha level. Or alfa level. Either would be fine with me.

1 comment:

  1. Not that this wasn't a fascinating informative entry but I have noticed the kids are having less of a presence on the blog. Is someone hogging computer time? I miss hearing the kids's interpretation of what they're experiencing too. Are they resisting adding their 2 cents worth?