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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 9, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Health-care reform

Treat it like a utility

I believe that many discussions about health-care reform in the United States miss an essential point: that universal health care should fall into the same category as sewage treatment and clean drinking water.

Everyone in my neighborhood pays taxes (which no one questions) to assure that sewage from their households is treated and that clean drinking water is delivered to their homes. It doesn’t matter if my neighbors are employed or not, if they earn a good salary or a meager one, if they are disabled or healthy, if they suffer from a chronic disease or not — they are covered in these most basic of public-health services.’

If my neighbor loses her job, she doesn’t lose her sewage-treatment coverage. Imagine what my neighborhood would be like if suddenly sewage treatment became a benefit of employment!

So it should be with health care: we all get the same preventive care, immunizations and other health-care services through taxes. Over time, we would all benefit from living in a society where everyone has equal access to health care, and no one would question using tax money for this purpose.

Please note that I am speaking about health care, not health insurance. Insurance companies are the big (and only) winners with our current system and would continue to be if we base health care on insurance plans, not direct service from medical providers to patients.

President Obama, are you listening? Consider this a vote for a single-payer system.

— Elizabeth Hanson, Seattle

Our system is broken

The Times might want to do a little fact-checking regarding its Globalist Quiz on life expectancy [“World’s lowest life expectancy,” News, June 8]. You cite the Globalist as ranking Haiti 46th in life expectancy — something that struck me as absurd as soon as I read it — this would put Haiti among the top quarter of the world’s countries.

Checking the CIA World Factbook’s rankings on Life Expectancy for 2009, one finds that Haiti, at 182nd in the world, is 43rd from the bottom. Afghanistan (life expectancy, 44 years) actually ranks 215th of 225 countries with Swaziland (life expectancy, 31 years) at the bottom.

Most interestingly, the United States, which spends twice as much per capita on health care as anyone else, ranks 50th, below every other rich country. Our ranking is falling steadily: Last year we were 46th; in 2006, we were 42nd; in 1980, we were number 11.

Clearly, our health is poor and our health-care system is broken. Canada, with its single-payer system (often ridiculed by Americans) ranks eighth (Canadians live nearly four years longer than we do); France is ninth and Sweden 10th. We are right there with Albania! And this is from the CIA, hardly an anti-American source.

— John de Graaf, Seattle

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