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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 22, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Health care: What should reform look like, and how fast should it happen?

Let’s tax the wealthy for new health-care plan

Editor, The Times:

There seems to be a disconnect in many Americans’ minds on health care: We believe the system is broken, yet we are satisfied with our coverage. This paradox is easy to explain. Most of us are one layoff away from losing our employee-based health-care plan. If you lose your job or get sick, the system appears broken and needs fixing. Then the question becomes: Who should pay for the fix?

The choices I’m reading fall into two categories: Tax those of us in the middle class who are still lucky enough to have health care provided by our employer or increase taxes on the very wealthy.

It is really hard for me to believe that after the past year’s dismal economic news there would still be any objection to increased taxes on couples whose household incomes are still more than $350,000 annually.

— Brett Moyer, Seattle

Health care should only be for those who can afford it

The Republicans have it right on health care. We are a capitalistic country. We don’t want socialized medicine. If you can’t afford to pay for your own insurance or treatment then you don’t deserve medical attention. Neither should businesses large or small be forced to pay for the health care of their employees. Workers should be happy just to be employed and by virtue of that employment have the means to buy their own health care.

Poor people should not be allowed access to expensive treatments they can’t afford.

One need only to look at the portfolios of rich people to realize their lives are more valuable then those without the money to stay alive. Wealth is the only true measure of worth. That’s what makes a Picasso great art. That’s what makes a Dom. Romane Conti 1997 taste so good.

We need true health-care reform. We should close the emergency-room loophole once and for all. People are stealing free medical treatment and raising health-care costs for the rest of us by receiving emergency-room medical treatment without first establishing whether or not they can pay for it. That’s fraud.

We could further reduce the cost of health care by eliminating medical care for prisoners who cannot afford to pay for it themselves. Why should law-abiding citizens have to pay to keep convicted felons alive? Why should we reward them for their crimes? It makes no sense.

Medicare is the single biggest drain on our economy and needs to end. Old people with no money will die soon anyway. What’s the point of keeping them alive for a few months longer?

I urge you to support the Republican efforts to derail Obama’s push to raise our taxes for the care of the unworthy. Further, I implore you to send a message to Congress that you are no longer willing to subsidize health care for criminals, the old and about to die or the homeless.

— Marshall Dunlap, Kent

Anecdotes don’t show the flaws in Canadian health care

That was a pretty amazing article The Seattle Times took from The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times [“Myths, truths of Canada’s universal coverage,” page one, July 21]. I don’t know which is worse: placing “editorials” on the front page or using anecdotes to attempt to make a point.

I could fill the entire Seattle Times with such nonsense from the other point of view. My family is Canadian and although they are rabidly pro-Canada and anti-U.S., the stories they tell about their health-care system are not only plentiful, but truly awful.

The use of statistics can be very misleading. To claim Canadian health care gives them longer and healthier lives is to bring back the old saw: figures don’t lie, but liers can certainly figure.

The only stat I have seen that I really believe is that the mortality rate from cancer there is 25 percent higher than here. I also know from personal experience that their emergency rooms are a joke, and their treatment of elders is disgraceful.

— Steve Nyman, Seattle

Consider the real cost of Canadian treatment

I was frankly appalled to find a puff piece on Canada’s health-care system masquerading as front-page news.

From the beginning, the article lauded the low price of Canadian health care without even considering the real cost of such treatment. The story even tried to minimize the issue of wait lists by treating it in the context of nonessential care. But what of the wait lists for broken bones or for the flu?

I’m not sure what’s worse: The Seattle Times’ glorification of a failed health-care system or its grotesque caricature of its opponents. No one can defend the American system — a tangle of regulations and frivolous lawsuits in desperate need of reform. But just as communism sounded better in light of the Great Depression, so universal health care is only defensible in contrast to our nightmarish system.

Finally, the article betrayed a glaring lack of any balanced treatment or opposing views. If the reporter had trouble, all they had to do was go to any hospital and speak with a nurse. They’re the ones who have to treat all the health-care refugees fleeing from Canada. They know the real costs of Canadian medicine.

— Alex Binz, Normandy Park

A plan that covers the catastrophic, those in need

Here’s my solution for health-care reform.

First, we should create a very basic, high-deductible government health-care policy that pays for major medical events only. Include everyone and pay for it with taxes. No one would ever again lose their home or be denied lifesaving procedures.

It would be cheap because it would be single payer and would include the whole pool of healthy and unhealthy people, sharing the risk universally. Billing would be simple for hospitals, which would be guaranteed payment.

Middle-class and wealthy consumers would pay for routine illness events out of pocket, just like getting your car repaired, or they could purchase add-on insurance from private companies, as they choose.

Poor people would get extra coverage for routine illnesses in free government or charity clinics. There will always be people who are so poor they can’t contribute anything.

Wouldn’t this solve everything at modest cost to the public, or I am just simple-minded?

— Felix Mahr, Olympia

Sacrifices for other citizens are small price to pay

I love my health-care system, and with American relatives who are uninsured on their major illnesses due to layoffs and “pre-existing conditions,” I’ve never understood why the American people accept the poor treatment they get in the majority. I am well cared for by the Canadian system, and so are the folks down the street struggling to make ends meet.

On an economic level, the working class here has more mobility — I don’t have to stay in a job to protect my coverage of pre-existing conditions. I don’t have pre-existing conditions.

Canadian wait times have not been problematic for me; I hear this is the attack. Health care here works on a triage system. I’ve seen a number of specialists in my life, and I’ve gotten in immediately if my life appeared threatened. This seems practical to me — those in danger of dying go first! I have never waited for long for other specialists.

If waiting two months to see a specialist is what I am asked to do to save the life of a fellow Canadian — well, it’s a tiny price to pay.

— A. Brenneman, Vancouver, B.C.

A change in attitude necessary for reform

As our country debates the details of the absolutely necessary health-care-reform legislation, I feel that at the same time it is just as necessary for the American taxpaying public to finally grow up and accept its responsibilities. It is so troubling to see necessary reforms in jeopardy because of our inability to accept the reality that we need to step up to the plate, with everyone chipping in, to pay for what our country and all of its citizens need and deserve.

Throughout our travels in Europe, with many countries already having universal health-care systems in place, and while visiting our diabetic daughter who lives in Canada and receives excellent, timely care, we do not hear people complaining about having to pay taxes to pay for vital government functions.

Their systems work because their citizens are accepting their mutual responsibilities for supporting the public good. We all need to get with the program and realize our attitude of “not out of my wallet” is selfish, shortsighted and will in the long run be disastrous to our common good.

— Lorraine Schwarm, Seattle

Obama’s rush on reform will fix nothing

President Obama’s plan [“Obama to begin full-court press on health care,” page one, July 20] to enact health-care legislation by Aug. 7 is ludicrous in the extreme. Any health-care system, and particularly the American one serving more than 300 million patients, is enormously complex.

Any workable and meaningful changes will require significant planning and discussion before codifying into law. Although Obama and his advisers seem to feel drastically cutting health-care spending will correct all of the countries’ economic woes, this is unlikely to be true.

He should not use the political capital he has from the “honeymoon” period of his recent election combined with our current economic troubles to push through health-care reform without doing the difficult planning that will be required to design a viable long-term health-care system.

This cannot be done in the next few weeks.

— Ralph G. Althouse, M.D., Seattle

Comments | More in Health care, Reform

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