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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 8, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Health care: weighing in on H.B. 676, Medicare

Canadian health care would be a welcome change

Opponents of a public-health-insurance option caution that such a plan would result in “Canadian-style” health care. In support of this, here is a true story.

A cautious, self-employed Seattleite, I pay for the best private health insurance available. Good thing, because at 43 years old, after being diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer, I received treatment at two top regional facilities: surgery at University of Washington Medical Center and chemotherapy at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Weeks after my diagnosis, a lifelong friend in Vancouver, B.C., was diagnosed with a virtually identical cancer — same tumor size and characteristics, same lymph node status, etc.

After tumor discovery, I received diagnostic tests after more than 30 days. Her tests took three. I waited five weeks for surgery; she was scheduled in two. Post-surgery, I waited five weeks to begin chemotherapy. Her chemo started in three.

In the end, my out-of-pocket expenses exceeded $30,000. Her bills were in the hundreds of dollars.

The UW just hired my reconstructive surgeon from the University of Toronto for his education in pioneering techniques. My friend’s surgeon was Canadian, too.

So will a public plan result in Canadian-style health care? I truly hope so.

— Kathleen Duke, Seattle

Don’t leave the mess for insurance companies to fix

In response to The Seattle Times report [“Cantwell hints she might back Obama plan,” NWWednesday, July 1] on Sen. Maria Cantwell’s health-care stance: Opponents of a federally funded public option for health-care insurance argue that by themselves the existing health-care companies will take care of the problems. They have had decades to do this but haven’t done so.

Premiums continue to rise, increasing numbers of poor or unemployed people must live without insurance and with substandard health care and others rightfully worry that a serious illness could bring their coverage to an end. Our existing system appears to work well for the healthy and the wealthy, but not for the poor, the unemployed and the sick. Meanwhile, reputable studies show citizens of other countries have equal or better health care at far less cost.

Somehow “the market” has failed to keep foreign cars and electronics out of the U.S. Upper and lower-level insurance workers and other Americans gladly use these products. How long should the health-care-insurance market be permitted to deny Americans the benefits of other nations with the bugaboo scare tactics of “socialism?”

To those who say, “I don’t want the government coming between me and my doctor,” I say, “I don’t want a profit-motivated insurance executive coming between me and my doctor!”

— Rev. Don Klompeen, Bothell

There’s no competition under single-payer insurance regime

John Geyman, professor of medicine emeritus from the University of Washington, says [“Don’t discard pay-go option,” Opinion, guest column, July 7] a single-payer health-insurance regime would beat out private health insurance if they were competing on a level field. He touts H.B. 676.

Private health insurance would be banned if H.B. 676 were enacted. There would be no way to test Geyman’s assertion.

— Eric Tronsen, Seattle

Guest columnists are right on health care

The columns in The Times July 7 by Paul Krugman [“HELP for health-care reform,” Opinion, guest column] and Dr. John Geyman about health-care reform are both enlightening and encouraging.

Krugman referred to HELP for health-care reform as “a historic opportunity.” Yet he neglected to point out that universal care will provide early care for all children so that more serious illnesses are averted, thus moving into a more preventive mode and avoiding greater medical costs.

Geyman mentions Rep. John Conyer’s H.B. 676 with 83 co-sponsors, which would provide universal coverage with a “savings of some $400 billion a year.” This legislation was introduced several months ago and yet this is the first mention of it I have seen or heard in the media since then.

As past president of Physicians for a National Health Program and a member of the Institute of Medicine, Geyman should be given much more recognition in the media and the content of H.B. 676 should be fully presented for public awareness.

— Dr. Norval Pielstick, Ferndale

Public option will weigh down Medicare

Those advocating for expanding Medicare as part of a public health option need to recognize the following:

First, many doctors refuse to take Medicare patients because of low reimbursement schedules, and Medicare patients have to pay for their own annual physical exams if they can find a doctor. Medicare payments to hospitals fail to cover patient costs, forcing them to raise prices for those insured by private-insurance companies to make up for shortfall.

President Obama plans to expand coverage to 44 million who are currently not insured, but increasing the number of Medicare patients will force hospitals to further raise costs for private insurers, causing them to lose members to the cheaper public option. Finally, Obama’s plan to fund the public-option plan will cut some $600 billion to $900 billion from Medicare payments during the next 10 years.

As a Medicare user for the past five years, I don’t look forward to the future if this plan goes through.

— Bill Hirt, Bellevue

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