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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 26, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Health-care: Is Congress going too slow or too fast on reform?

Medicare is a harbinger of national health-care failure

From personal experience, I reject the idea of government-paid health care for all.

Many people don’t recall the establishment of Medicare and how it chased private insurance for seniors out of the market. Employers and insurance companies saw no reason to deal with the expense and administration of their plans in competition with the government plan. Obviously, this will happen again if the government starts covering all citizens. You will not be able to keep your current insurance whether or not you are happy with it.

Regarding the operation of Medicare, it is well known that its payments are seriously below market rates. Many doctors will not accept Medicare patients. I can name offhand four people who were notified by their large clinics that their Medicare coverage would no longer be accepted; just think how many more patients received that notification. I must travel to a neighboring city for a particular medical specialty because none of the local practitioners will accept Medicare.

Clearly, the government administration of Medicare is a failure. Why should we expand the program for an even greater failure — and a terribly expensive failure at that?

— Bernice Oberson, Kirkland

Congress, take your time on health-care reform

Why would any rational senator or representative vote, yea or nay, on a bill that is more than 1,000 pages long, that would not take effect for four years and that they had not read? Why would President Obama tell us such a bill was absolutely essential to pass within two weeks?

— Al and Linda King, Olympia

Health care ‘too expensive’ because it’s for the American people

Politicians are convincing the American people that health-care reform is too expensive, and the $1 trillion cost over 10 years must be paid upfront. Why can’t we spend $100 billion annually to improve the lives of ordinary citizens? Why is this program too expensive, when compared with some of the other recently approved programs that have racked up similar bills? Why? Because the program will benefit the lives of real Americans.

In the last seven years, our representatives had no trouble approving our hard-earned tax dollars to be spent on a pre-emptive war in Iraq, which has cost us nearly a trillion dollars in six years.

In September 2008, Congress passed TARP, giving nearly a trillion dollars of our money to Wall Street. When the Medicare Drug plan was passed, the Congressional Budget Office also predicted the cost to taxpayers at nearly a $1 trillion over 10 years, benefiting pharmaceuticals.

The money isn’t going to the military-industrial complex, the pharmaceutical complex or the wealthy CEOs on Wall Street, who give our politicians millions in campaign dollars. The money is going to you and me. Suddenly this program is too expensive and can’t be rushed. What nonsense!

— Glenda Tecklenburg, Mill Creek

What’s with the delay on health-care reform?

I cannot believe Congress’ inability to move on health care. Has our political system become so saturated with special-interest money that we have become unable to move legislation as critically important as health-care reform?

There has never been a time when the power in the House and Senate is actually primed for meaningful reform. What in the world is keeping lawmakers from moving toward universal coverage that includes at a minimum a public option that leads to modification of the insurance industry’s stranglehold on health care?

How much more profit must be gained from sickness management and nonmanagement of cherry-picked populations? How much longer are we going to pay 10 times the amount for primary care in the emergency rooms for citizens that do not have coverage.

The whole notion of a single-payer system was taken from the table before it made it the first round of discussion. How much longer will the population be misled by the opponents of universal coverage trashing the Canadian system.

Canadians would revolt in masses if there was even the slightest attempt to modify their health-care system. If ever there was a time for U.S. citizens to rise to the occasion, this is it.

— Michael Johnson, Shoreline

In time of need, money shouldn’t get in the way

As a dual citizen, I have had the privilege to see both the American and Canadian systems at work.

My mother, an American, was diagnosed with a very aggressive brain tumor. My mother, never being a quitter, chose to follow the doctor’s recommendation of treating the tumor even though she was given a less than 10 percent chance of survival. Though she had a premium heath-care plan, she had to fight to get her chemotherapy paid for.

In the end, the medical intervention extended her life by only a few tortuous months. No one profited except those providing the treatment. In the midst of his grief, my father worried about whether her insurance would cover all of the cost of her time in the hospital. In the end, the bills were paid but not without major financial uncertainty and anxiety.

In contrast, two years later, my four-month-old son was diagnosed in Canada with a cancer-like disease. We saw our pediatrician at 11:30 a.m. and an oncologist at 3 p.m. the same day, and he was admitted to begin tests two days later.

The care was entirely free and the only scars we bear are on my son’s neck. I believe the care was some of the best in the world, and I trusted the doctors’ recommendations. There was no discussion of money or motivation. We were able to focus on the health of our child.

In times of crisis, families need to focus on their loved one, not on who will pay the bills.

— Wendy Ilott, Edmonton, Alberta

Canadian health care for all U.S. citizens

I heard Mary Scott of Mount Vernon interviewed on Canadian Broadcasting Corp. radio. She wrote The Vancouver Sun asking Canadians to write The Seattle Times with the truth about our health care.

I am a family physician in Ontario, and I hear complaints about waiting. But I also hear great compliments about how the system came through in spades when there was a major need in one’s health. Nothing is perfect, but I never, ever hear of a patient loosing their home in Canada because they had health bills to pay.

I am amazed there is so much erroneous denigrating of the Canadian health-care system by some people in the U.S.A. We are such close neighbors — clearly the truth should be more evident that it can be done much better than your current system. You do have wonderful facilities and great practitioners, but you also have millions with no insurance coverage.

I hope your voters choose a Canadian-like health-care system for the benefit of your whole population.

— Gordon E. Riddle, M.D., Ottawa, Ontario

From an insider, private insurance is broken

I have experienced health care as a consumer, as a developer for an insurance company, as the director of information technology for a mental-health agency and as the bookkeeper for a provider. I’ll admit I like and respect my doctor, but that is the only place where I have experienced our system as satisfactory.

As the bookkeeper for a provider recognized by about 20 insurance companies, my personal frustration has hit new highs. Our health-care system is too disorganized. No two companies have the same forms. Some have different billing systems for different services. Some use online systems, others require faxing, others require communication through the Post Office. Some require we return a form they send us and some use industry-standard forms. Some use both depending on the service.

When we are paid, it can be based on what we billed, but mostly it isn’t — it’s based on rules unique to each company. Yes, they have shared the rules, but the rules change with each insurance company and even within a single company based on service provided.

The current system is in the process of self-destructing.

— Steve Paul, Seattle

Prescription drugs should be part of reform

The $40 million the pharmaceutical industry spent lobbying Congress from April 1 through June 30 probably explains why lowering drug costs is not a major part of the health-care-reform debate. But it should be.

Pharmaceutical companies advertise their most expensive drugs in direct marketing to consumers and encourage Americans to ask their doctors to prescribe them. As a result, patients arrive at doctor’s offices, demanding this or that medicine they’ve just learned about through advertising. The beneficiary is the drug industry, which earns huge profits and even gets a tax write-off for advertising costs.

Among industrialized countries, only the U.S. and New Zealand allow pharmaceutical companies to market directly to consumers. It was not allowed when I was younger, and I believe it should be outlawed now.

— Vicki King, Seattle

Healthy health-care system will bring healthy economy

President Obama’s speech [“Obama not backing down on health care,” page one, July 23] shows a president determined to make a difference for this country and its citizens, despite the large political risks involved.

Obama understands and is trying to explain that the status quo is not a viable option. To those who talk about choice, and the prospect of losing it, need I remind you that for most of us our health-care choices are largely proscribed by our health-insurance policies.

But the big-picture issue, alluded to by the president, are the enormous economic implications of the current system. Spiraling health-care costs are an uncompetitive fact of life for doing business in the United States that give pause to multinational companies with options overseas. Our per-hour labor costs are often lower than many European countries and Japan, but when health-care costs are figured into the equation, the U.S. becomes an unattractive location for a new venture.

Thus, our long-term economic health, not just our physical health, will be largely determined by whether we act now to reform our health-care system and reign in costs.

— Jonathan Ryweck, Port Townsend

Comments | More in drugs, Economy, Health care, Reform, Taxes


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