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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 14, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Health-care reform: National plan must be passed

Don’t let Congress write the obituary on better health care

There were two disturbing obituaries in The Seattle Times July 12. One was of a dear member of my extended family, a young man who might be alive and well today if we had decent universal health care in this country. The other was David Broder’s syndicated column [“Fault lines threaten health reform,” Opinion] predicting the death of meaningful health-care reform in Congress.

In spite of the costly, inefficient, dysfunctional, patchwork system we are burdened with — that I believe contributed to the death of my relative — and despite overwhelming public support for a robust public plan, Congress remains beholden to the health-insurance industry. So the obituary of universal health care is being written and we seem doomed to mourn its death or to endure a crippled insurance-friendly plan on life support.

This is so because the insurance companies can devote so much money to lobbying, misleading advertising and elections. They scare the public with stories about rationing of care, lack of choice, government red tape and socialism. Yet the purpose of private health insurance is to maximize profits.

These companies do that by denying care, not providing it. It is they who are limiting choice and burdening medical-care providers and patients with wasteful red tape. Their claim of government inefficiency is contradicted by statistics consistently showing a wide margin of lower administrative costs for public plans than private. Insurance bureaucracy is the worst kind.

An industry that claims to believe in competition argues a public plan would be unfair competition, but its claim really is that it would be too efficient. Insurers are fighting so hard because they can see that a public plan would eventually end lucrative executive compensation and shareholder profits.

Their real fear is that a public plan would be so successful and so popular that it would obliterate the private health-care industry. Now that would be an obituary none of us need mourn.

— Jerry Cronk, Shoreline

HR 676 holds promise for a successful national health program

Three cheers for Congressmen Norm Dicks and Jim McDermott for co-sponsoring HR 676, John Conyers’ single-payer health-insurance bill. A growing number of physicians support this initiative as the fairest, most comprehensive, most fiscally responsible option on the table; those who are wary of “socialized medicine,” which HR 676 is not, should visit the Physicians for a National Health Program Web site and read the FAQ page.

I urge the other members of Washington’s congressional delegation to carefully consider HR 676’s many advantages. These include truly universal coverage, unrestricted choice of physicians, low administrative overhead and substantial monetary savings. Merely tinkering with the present system will not achieve these goals.

As a physician scientist who has lived and worked — and received good medical care –in countries with successful national health systems, I am filled with shame that we are not meeting this basic human need for all of our citizens here at home. It’s time to stop shoring up a failed system and set up one that works.

— George M. Martin, M.D., Seattle

Three great reasons to support a government-option plan

I support a government-option health-care plan for these very solid reasons:

First, we already know from experience with Medicare and the Veterans Affairs that it would only cost about 3 percent of receipts to administer the program versus 14 percent to 20 percent for public or private health-care companies.

We also know that examples of it in other advanced economies produce much better health results than ours by far. If you think we can’t afford it, and we are the premier economy in the world, then ask yourself why can every other leading country and many smaller ones afford it?

Second, there will always be a need for private health-insurance companies because no government-sponsored plan will ever be able to pay for all the things people might want covered — and that is as it should be. The key word in the prior sentence is “private” and not “public” companies because absolutely no corporation whose primary concern is shareholder value should ever be allowed to sell health insurance. Every health-insurance company should place its highest priority on its customers’ well-being, not on keeping rates high for shareholder profit.

Finally, our country should not be hobbling businesses by insisting that individual businesses be responsible for paying for health insurance. They must compete against companies around the world that do not have that constraint. It is completely illogical for our country to be so anti-business.

Health-insurance corporations are betting you are too lazy to make time right now to call or write an e-mail. They are spending about $1.5 million dollars per day on registered lobbyists to keep things about the way they are now. Remember, more than half the people forced into bankruptcy by medical issues had health insurance.

If you don’t care, why should Congress?

— Paul Davallou, Anacortes

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