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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 28, 2009 at 3:10 PM

Health care: public option to bring competition or monopoly?

Plan caters to unions, congressmen

Your “Obama won’t rule out taxing health benefits” headline [News, June 25] was just slightly inaccurate. While Obama and Congress are contemplating taxing the employees’ health-insurance benefits, they are specifically exempting millions of their favored constituents — labor union members.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, “union members serving under collective bargaining agreements would be exempt, even though they often have the richest and most extensive packages of benefits.” Surprise!

Sure haven’t seen this information reported by other media. Another surprise!

It’s also no big surprise there’s been a total lack of reporting of the exemption Congress itself would receive from Obama’s health-care plan. Yes, the Obama Care Plan prepared by Sen. Edward Kennedy specifically exempts members of Congress from many of its provisions. Page 114 of the Kennedy plan restricts care for the general public in order to control costs while insuring Congress will still receive its taxpayer-paid benefits.

Congressmen would still undoubtedly enjoy the widest selection of health plans available to anyone in our nation while millions would be forced to participate in whatever politicians, not medical professionals, decide is a basic health plan.

If they think their health plan for the rest of us is so great, why don’t they participate 100 percent in it too?

Just one more example of the “do as we say, not as we do” condescending “I know what is best for you” opinion liberals and progressives have of the masses.

No wonder they’re trying to ram the health-care plan through before we the people find out what it’s all about.

— Fred Long, Port Angeles

No real competition in public-option insurance

President Obama’s proposal for a new government-run public option for health insurance is bringing new and enthusiastic fans of “competition” out of the woodwork [“GOP foes boost health-care reform,” Opinion, column, June 26]. We are being showered with declarations of joy for the benefits competition will bring.

It is curious that none of these advocates have, now or in the last 40 years, advocated the blessings of private competition to Medicare if that were permitted. Why not allow those on Medicare the option of applying some of their lifetime of Medicare tax payments to premiums for private insurance? Would not the competition improve Medicare?

Of course that would not serve the purpose of more government power and bureaucracy. Why if all seniors love Medicare so much are their Social Security pensions taken away if they decline Medicare Part A coverage? Is that competition or intimidation?

And if competition is such a good thing, why do Washington and other states rigorously regulate what treatments all companies must cover whether their customers want such coverage or not? Why is everyone forbidden from buying insurance across state lines, which would provide a lot more competition? Why if national insurance competition is forbidden by law is a national public option such a wonderful idea?

The idea that competition can only result from a government program is a perversion of economics and the English language.

— Richard E. Ralston, Americans for Free Choice in Medicine executive director, Newport Beach, Calif.

Obama’s health-care plan will only bring a headache

Dr. Jeff Huebner and Dr. Charles Mayer are to be commended for their thoughtful guest column [“A vision for health-care reform that is effective and affordable,”, Editorials/Opinion, June 22] and detailing the principles that must be included in health-care reform legislation to achieve health justice for all Americans.

However, even a strong public option, which they advocate, within our fragmented multipayer system won’t have the administrative savings and cost control necessary to sustain it, nor the unification required to implement measures to improve quality and actually realize whatever savings that might come from preventive medicine, care management, best practices, electronic records, etc.

Now President Obama is talking about a public option with several different benefit levels where you can buy a plan that’s right for your family — really indicating a tiered system that would provide more benefits to those who could afford them. Such a public option would introduce inequity, more headaches and overhead cost to physicians as well as increase administrative costs within our multipayer system.

It is crystal clear that without controlling costs, any reform will fail. Single-payer health-insurance reform is the only sustainable and just system within which physicians would be best able to care for all their patients.

— David McLanahan, M.D., Seattle

Why fix a system few are dissatisfied with?

The New York Times and CBS have released a new poll on health care [“Most want all to be insured — and we’re willing to pay,” News, June 21] that is not really valid. Look at the bias in the people polled: 2-1 favored Barack Obama to John McCain in the election, and 38 percent were Democrats to 24 percent Republicans. No wonder poll results showed that people like Obama’s efforts to take over the best health-care system in the world. By the way, only 7 percent of those polled stated health care was an important problem.

Other more accurate polls show nearly 90 percent of Americans are satisfied with their health care. So where is the problem that needs to be fixed? Democrats always make up a crisis and then try to provide a government solution to the supposed crisis. While there do need to be some changes to improve the system, such changes should not include a government option. It is not the place for government to be in the health-care business. Look at the terrible job they have done with Medicaid and Medicare.

You state a government option would infuse competition into the system [“Real health-care reform,” Opinion, editorial, June 23]. Since when can the private sector compete with the powerful government, which makes the rules and has more money to play with?

Get serious: That is not competition. It is a slow, deceptive takeover of health care with a major impact on our access to care as well as the quality of such care. Just ask Canadians!

— William Backlund, M.D., Redmond

Health-care reform being twisted into nothing new

The “reform” of our health-care system is proving to be a sham. Under the nurturing hand of Sen. Max “Bogus” Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a Democratic health-care industry shill who purports to represent the people of Montana, our bought-and-paid-for legislators are on a mission to preserve at all costs a private-insurance model that systematically cherry-picks the healthy, overcharging them for medical risks they’re unlikely to face; underserves the poorly insured, at a dear price, by denying their claims for medically necessary treatments in order to save money; and overserves the richly insured with one “fee-for-service” billing after another to run up obscene profits.

This moneymaking machine will continue to shake us down until it is replaced by a taxpayer-funded, privately delivered single-payer model with the mission of maintaining our health rather than the profits of the predatory health-care industry.

— Joe Wallace, Seattle

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