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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 28, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Health care: What is the cost of Canadian system?

Cost of Canadian health care still lower than U.S.

Letter writer Dana Keith [“Canadians do pay for health care,” Northwest Voices, Opinion, July 25] is correct in stating that Canadians do pay for their health care. As is the case with all government services, they pay with their tax dollars, just as one pays with a private health-care plan.

However, the total cost of the Canadian system is 10 percent to 11 percent of their gross domestic product compared with around 17 percent in the U.S.

In addition, all Canadian citizens are covered with a provincial Medical Services Plan, which receives funds from the federal government via tax transfers. The system is therefore a single-payer one, whereby everyone contributes to the care of all citizens.

Individuals choose their own physicians, who decide what care is required — not the government, regardless of what you might hear on radio and TV talk shows — and they do not have to ante up large sums for emergency and intensive care or even for infant delivery. The system works very well.

— Stephen Calvert, Tsawwassen, B.C.

Lower costs, lower mortality rates in superior Canadian system

Dana Keith writes to tell us that Canadians pay for their health care by an increase in taxes. This is not new information.

Their health-care system is entirely supported by taxes. But the total cost of their health-care system is one-third to one-half of the United States’ cost. This is well documented in data published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the World Health Organization, just to name two.

What do Canadians get for this? First, their entire population gets health. Compared to us, they live two years longer, have a lower infant-mortality rate and a lower maternal-mortality rate. I mention this information because it is the basis for how health-care systems are evaluated by health economists.

Based on the evaluations of health economists, Canada ranks in the top 10 in the world of health care. The U.S. ranks in the mid-30s, about equal to Cuba. Cuba spends about one-tenth what the U.S. spends to achieve the same results.

The U.S. spends more per person for health care than any other country in the world. This is largely, probably entirely, due to our health-insurance industry, which is very profitable but not in the business of providing health care. Michael Moore’s movie “Sicko” delineates this well and has been repeatedly confirmed by studies and investigations since.

Citizens should question strongly the assertions, lies and evasions of the health industry. They’re after the big bucks, not your health.

— Donald J. Sherrard, M.D., Bellevue

Current health care poses real economic risk

The average cost of an employer-provided family health-insurance policy is on the rise and could nearly double by 2016 if Congress doesn’t act now. This could mean economic disaster for every family and employer. We all should be working to avoid it.

That’s why I can’t understand why some in Congress want to block President Obama’s plan to rein in these rising costs. Maybe it has something to do with the $2.7 billion in our health-care dollars that insurers and drug companies spent on lobbying over the past 10 years.

Our state’s congressional delegation must put aside the political games and pass comprehensive health reform now.

— Anthony J. Crawford, Bremerton

In 1,000-page bill, too much room for loopholes and earmarks

In reply to the excellent letters to the editor [Opinion, Northwest Voices, July 27], I have a question. If $500,000 from the manufacturers of paper and plastic bags is funding opposition to a 20-cent bag tax, what can we deduce about the billions of dollars being thrown at health-care reform by the insurance and pharmaceutical companies?

President Obama is not really urging Congress to just vote on a bill that is more than 1,000 pages long. He is urging Congress to enact reform that the deep pockets have stalled for decades. A 1,000-page bill is long enough and complicated enough to hide countless loopholes and benefits for special interests who are throwing money at our elected officials.

There is also a 30-page bill, H.R. 676, that has been recycled and improved since 1993, when it was buried by the same special interests that are fighting reform today. This simple, single-payer plan would use money collected from payroll taxes and redirected from other government programs to pay medical doctors and clinicians for medical services and devices, including long-term care and other desirable features that are neglected in the myriad private plans and the ill-defined public option offered as choices in the 1,000-page bill. H.R. 676 is simply an improved and expanded version of Medicare that would be adequately funded and thus insured to succeed.

H.R. 676 is co-sponsored by almost 90 members of the House of Representatives, including Washington Reps. Jim McDermott and Norm Dicks. The rest of the House is either influenced by the billions in lobbyist money or just waiting to see which way the wind blows.

Please blow fresh air into this sordid mess, and urge our members of Congress to pass a single-payer plan like what is described in H.R. 676. That is what a rational senator or representative would do.

— James Bruner, Oak Harbor

Right-wing pundits have no solutions for broken health care

I am sick to death of the likes of Charles Krauthammer [“Obamacare vs. fiscal reality: the health-care nirvana fantasy,” Opinion, syndicated column, July 26] once again rolling out the oldest red herring in the right-wing health-care arsenal: that the high cost of treatment in America is about lawyers and litigation.

In reality, the cost of lawsuits is less than 1 percent of U.S. health-care spending, and in states like Texas and Florida where vigorous tort reform has passed, health-care costs are skyrocketing along with the rest of the country. The most compelling piece I’ve read about health-care cost in America is by Dr. Atul Gawande. He compares the two cities of McAllen and El Paso, Texas. Both cities have virtually identical demographics, but health-care spending per capita in McAllen is nearly double El Paso’s. The conclusion I drew was that in McAllen health care is focused on profits while in El Paso it is focused on patients.

You will never see Krauthammer publish the obscene CEO salaries routinely handed out in the health-care industry. You will never see him address the increasing number of physicians who own their own laboratories and surgery centers while refusing Medicare patients. You will never see him address the fact that rising health-care costs have the power to bring down the American economy. You will never see him provide his plan for change because he doesn’t have one, and he doesn’t believe health care is a right anyway. Krauthammer’s column is not worth the paper it’s written on.

In my opinion, the problem with the American heath-care system is that it is an inefficient, bloated bureaucracy with maximization of profit at it’s heart rather than prevention or treatment of illness. For-profit health care is an unsustainable oxymoron.

— Judy Neldam, Duvall

In my daughter’s struggle, find why we need reform

My daughter died this week from a heart attack that could have been prevented. She had asked Washington state for medical help and was denied because she was $3 over the income limit.

She had blood-pressure problems that could have been controlled with medication, a cyst in her knee which made walking painful and her body did not make the red in her blood very well. She had to have several blood transfusions a couple of years ago due to this condition.

But after that, none of these issues were addressed due to money. Even low-income clinics want money, and she did not have enough to cover living expenses and co-pays.

Those of you who have medical coverage and are fighting single-payer health care should have such a tragic event occur to you. I think it is the only way you will understand what is happening.

Apparently, if you are poor, your life is of no value in this country.

— Bernice Larsen, Puyallup

Comments | More in Economy, Health care, Reform

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