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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 12, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Health care: What does it look like outside U.S.?

Look closely at impacts of universal health care in EEU

Editor, The Times:

I’ve got health care whenever I need it, for myself and for my family.

When we need it, we go to the appropriate provider and get it. Then we pay for it.

When we are short of money, we take advantage of current lawful protection and go to the emergency room and get it. Then we find a way to pay for it even if it means starting over.

You see, we do not need health insurance, and we do not want health insurance. The law protects all Americans in this regard; we get care, ability to pay or not.

Some never pay their medical bills under this system, so hospitals simply bill the government as is already provided for in existing programs, which require zero overhead for handling premium collections. Even if we had another universal system, the same people who did not pay their health bills before would not pay because they do not produce anything.

I am satisfied in this nation, which outproduces the European Economic Union by nearly 50 percent per person, that we can afford to spend, and should spend, more on health care. I deserve it for my enterprise. We spend double the amount per year on health care as our EEU counterparts, but our procedure costs are as low or lower, so we receive more than double the number of procedures as our EEU counterparts when and where we need them. We outproduce the EEU by 50 percent but only spend about 8 percent more of that bounty on health-care procedures. The rest we spend on what motivates us.

It’s good enough we have social endeavor already established to care for those who cannot care for themselves and whose families and friends cannot or won’t care for them. We have a system that wastes little.

Under the burden of heavy taxation for socialist programs designed to make things better, like universal health care, the EEU suffers from nearly double the unemployment rate, nearly double the poverty level and an average income level equivalent to our poverty income level.

Why are our politicians looking the gift horse in the mouth?

— David Graham, Mill Creek

Savings should be passed to those who make healthy choices

While we wring our hands over the health-care dilemma, and I admit I do, we should keep a few things in perspective. Regence BlueShield is nonprofit [“Individual health-plan premiums cause pain,” page one, July 9] so switching to a government plan is likely to do little or nothing to the basic real cost. It would just bury those costs into a complicated taxing system.

However, a recent article by the CEO of Safeway promises a path to those cost savings. Basically, Safeway passes on the savings to employees for practicing healthy lifestyles.

His claim is that 70 percent of the health costs are related to lifestyle and in particular weight, cholesterol, smoking and blood pressure. By encouraging employees to manage their weight, avoid tobacco and blood pressure and cholesterol levels, Safeway has not had to increase health-insurance premiums on those employees.

Maybe the state should allow Regence Blue Shield to discount premiums to those who practice healthy living and those who won’t can pay for their expensive habits.

— Bob Anundson, Sequim

A combo of health-care bills will make for a better system

The time has come for our elected representatives to pull together and ensure the best possible health-care plan for Americans. Sen. Maria Cantwell has voiced her commitment to the millions of children and their parents who have a right to a healthy life and need the access to achieve it. They have been denied for far too long, but Cantwell in particular needs to recognize the shortcomings of the two alternatives to a national, public option that will be forthcoming on day one.

The regional co-op model, Cantwell’s preferred option, is open to bureaucracy, lack of continuity and consistency. A public option with triggers would delay the full implementation of reform, perhaps significantly. And neither of these alternatives would satisfy what three-quarters of this nation’s citizens called for in a recent poll — affordable, quality health care for all that is national, strong and available soon.

As the Finance and HELP committees work to combine their two bills in the next couple of weeks, I respectfully urge Cantwell to acknowledge the significance of the Congressional Budget Office’s assessment that universal health care is not only affordable and will work, but it will also save the country money.

— Ellia Ryan, Seattle

In Canada, my health plan even pays for the ferry ride

A letter from Mary Scott of Mount Vernon published in The Vancouver Sun July 10 asked Canadians to write to The Seattle Times with our opinion of the Canadian medical system. There have been many lies spread about our system by the opponents of President Obama’s plans so maybe I can set a few things straight.

I lived in the U.S. for 40 years, but after three months residence in Canada, we were covered by the B.C. Medical Plan. The cost is only $49 per month each, although it is free in many other parts of Canada, and it covers almost everything except eyewear, dentistry, physical therapy and chiropractors. We also pay much higher “sin” taxes on liquor and tobacco, and those revenues go toward paying for the medical system.

I have paid about $150 per eye for an upgraded replacement lens, and $50 for an ambulance ride. My wife has had a couple of operations by two of the best surgeons in B.C., and she paid nothing. The plan even paid for the car ferry to get us back and forth to Vancouver for doctor’s appointments and operations.

When we left the hospital, we did not get a bill, only a friendly wave from the nurse. Compare that with our daughter who just had surgery in Washington state and, though covered by a company insurance policy, is now facing a co-pay of thousands of dollars. Or our other daughter who pays $600 a month for medical insurance on herself and our granddaughter.

Depending on income, the province will pay up to 70 percent of the drug costs and that is also a huge help in retirement.

Maybe the Canadian system isn’t perfect, but it surely beats the U.S. system in which so many citizens have no insurance because they cannot afford it, and others, like our daughters, face huge bills.

It seems obvious to me that the U.S. insurance companies are fighting with scare tactics against any change in the system for the simple reason that they don’t want to lose their big profits.

— Ted Brewer, Agassiz, B.C.

Canadians like their health-care system

Mary Scott from Mount Vernon wants to know if Canadians are unhappy with our health-care system. I would like to assure her that we are very happy with it, although there are people here — people who can afford it as well as some clinic owners — who want a system like the U.S. has.

Tommy Douglas, the father of health care here in Canada, is still one of our most revered heroes for his work.

The problems we have had with our health care are mainly a result of both federal and provincial governments skimping and cutting back on funding the last few years, which has caused problems with accessing doctors and facilities. Our premiers and prime ministers failed to foresee and plan for aging baby boomers and have now been surprised by it.

People on the whole here are thankful that our health-care system exists as a safety net in case the unforeseeable occurs.

In British Columbia, Premier Gordon Campbell recently had a forum on health care to discuss if perhaps a majority of people might want something different. But he was soundly defeated when everyone told him they liked the system as is just fine.

I would like to assure Scott that here in Canada, we do not hate our health-care system, and we fight tooth and nail against those trying to destroy it. If you heard differently, it is a lie.

— Mariel Schooff, Coquitlam, B.C

General health must remain priority

President Obama’s answer about a single-payer form of health care [“Questions and answers about health legislation,” seattletimes.com, Politics & Government, July 8] revealed much about the reality of the health-care debate. Take the phrase, “[health care] is one-sixth of our economy, and we’re not suddenly just going to completely upend the system.”

One-sixth is about 17 percent, meaning 17 percent of all economic activity in the U.S. is used for the maintenance of our bodies. As meals are not included in that slice, can we not say the big business of health care is too big? Consider too that the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity says money spent to promote general health is 5 percent of that one-sixth.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” runs the adage — in America, we’ve been getting both. There is no doubt we cannot afford our current health-care system; the economic projections are too daunting.

It is time all parties in Congress join the Obama administration in calmly trimming the fat from the private insurance industry. While increased regulation and a public insurance option will reshape health care in this country, the priority must be general health.

— Chris Boeckman, Seattle

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