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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 30, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Health care: With insured even struggling, it’s time for public insurance

For those in need, subsidize health care

Editor, The Times:

I hope many of your subscribers read Kyung Song’s excellent article [“Even the insured are going broke,” page one, June 28] regarding health insurance. The article implies that third-party payment of medical insurance by either private employers or the government is a contributing factor of the high cost of health care, and I agree. Slightly more than 90 percent of those who have medical insurance are partially or totally subsidized by their employers. Human nature will predictably overuse something that is free.

Additionally, to characterize private insurers offering their insurance policies in a free market is false. Song’s article showed what happened in our state in 1993 when government regulations dictated what the market could or could not do when providing medical insurance. The result was that the market almost disappeared. Government regulations, particularly mandated coverage, does not make for a free market and significantly limits choice. Obama, Paul Krugman and The Times don’t comprehend this.

The solution to this very important issue is to make individuals directly responsible for their relationships with medical providers and insurers. This can be accomplished with a universal medical-savings account system wherein employees could still be subsidized by their employers and those in financial need could be subsidized by the government. This would also serve as the long-term solution of the Medicare financial crises.

— Bob Dorse, Seattle

Government plans have low overhead, no need for private giveaways

Richard Ralston’s letter to the editor [“No real competition in public-option insurance,” seattletimes.com, Northwest Voices, June 28] is outrageous. There is private competition to Medicare –the private Medicare Advantage plans. And get this: Our federal government gives the private insurers 12 percent to 19 percent more per patient than what they spend on each patient who has traditional government Medicare.

This was a giveaway to the private insurers who can’t compete. In fact, this year half of United Healthcare profits were from Medicare Advantage plans.

Traditional government Medicare, our one-payer public plan for those older than 65, has an operating overhead of just 3 percent.

Private insurers have to pay huge CEO salaries, pay dividends, advertising, underwriting and more. Their overhead is between 10 percent and 40 percent.

Ralston’s Web site has nothing to do with free choice.

I am 57, and I pay $20,000 for health insurance in North Carolina. I would love to buy into Medicare! I have no choice. In fact, the only reason I have any insurance is because I am self-employed. I have a business policy, and by law my provider has to sell me coverage.

If I tried to apply as an individual I would be denied. Some free choice!

— Dr. Jim Matthews, Fort Mill, S.C.

HMOs exist but aren’t the solution

Sen. Kent Conrad’s proposal for a public health insurance co-op option B is a ruse. It is simply a means to maintain things as they are and prevent any movement that could lead to national single-payer health insurance.

Such co-ops already exist in several parts of the country. They are called HMOs. Examples like Kaiser Permanente and Group Health in Seattle have taken decades to achieve economies of scale, which yield optimal care at contained costs. Physicians must be hired or contracted and hospitals and clinics paid.

This requires substantial initial investment. Co-op startups in small communities are doomed because inadequate income from limited enrollees prevents the containment of costs and the gaining of traction. Even in larger communities, initial smaller scales of enrollment will prevent any real competition with larger existing insurers. It is the nationwide scale and the backing of our government that makes the real public option competitive and eventually capable of bringing health-care costs under control.

— James Maynard, Sammamish

Tort reform another way to fix health coverage

Here we go again, another large rate increase from my insurance provider. As much as I hate more government interference in our lives, something has to be done about affordable health care.

Little oversight of these companies is akin to the banking meltdown. My wife was paying less than $270 a month with a high deductible for her coverage two years ago, but it will be $489 a month starting in August. These rampant increases must stop.

Tort reform is a good start; maybe doctors won’t feel the need for so many unnecessary tests in order to keep their malpractice insurance from escalating (notice, another insurance company involved).

Insurance companies are part of the problem, but even more, we are pawns to attorney’s games, plain and simple. To make it worse, so many of our politicians are attorneys, protecting their next job back in the private sector. It’s a sorry situation at best.

— Richard Eirich, Kirkland

Insurance execs follow anti-golden rule

Martha Koester nailed the insurance executives who told our lawmakers that they have no plans to rescind their present policies concerning health-care claims [“Private insurers afraid,” Opinion, Northwest Voices, June 26]. Their business plan reminds me of a recent article published in The Seattle Times’ religion pages about the golden rule, which said, “The anti-golden rule is the morality of Capitalism.”

Some of our most powerful businesses in American history fit that statement. This is not the morality of our Founding Fathers. We need to send a message to our leaders in Washington, D.C., that we demand health care for all Americans now.

— John Guevarra, Seattle

Comments | More in Health care, Reform

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