Another round of more than 20 health-care reform letters. Look for others on tomorrow's Other Opinion page and on Sunday in Sunday Forum.
I just returned from a missions trip to Guyana, a small third world country. Two of our team members needed some medical services and visited the local hospital. The visit and medicines given were free. (In North Carolina, under the State Health Plan, for instance, you would have to pay $200 just for going to the hospital). This small country has free government-funded universal health care that includes vision and dental care. They just opened a special ophthalmology hospital that will perform free eye surgeries.
When I returned to the USA, I noticed we were debating about health care reform.
I am amazed that in the world’s richest country, we do not provide universal health care, as is done in many other countries. More amazing is that some sections of the society have been brainwashed that universal health care is bad for you.
Why is it that government-sponsored wars funded through deficit spending and government-sponsored bailouts (socialism for the rich) through deficit spending are okay, but government-sponsored health care especially for those millions of people not covered, is not okay?
I encourage everyone to watch Michael Moore’s DVD “Sicko,” which is a brilliant expose of how we are continually being conned by the current rapacious system. In North Carolina, for instance, Blue Cross/Blue Shield benefits from a no-bid contract and while they rake in profits, state employees and teachers premiums and co-pays have been increased steadily.
Part of any health care reform should include a comprehensive system that integrates medical, dental, vision and other types of care, and covered by a single insurance plan. No one is addressing this problem. The splitting of these services that require separate insurances and separate systems add to the overall costs of care, apart from excluding people from some of these services.
I call on all progressive Johnstonians to make their voices heard in support of universal health care as a basic human right. Don’t let the medical lobby steal your right to life that comes from health care coverage. Access to healthcare is a profoundly moral issue and it is un-Christian to oppose reforms to a system that excludes millions of people.
Dr. Jerry Jailall
An article in the Aug. 15 paper, "Protesters aim message at Hagan," claims that, "a statewide public opinion poll released this week suggests that the health-care overhaul no longer has majority support in North Carolina."
The article does not say who sponsored this poll or how it was conducted. Whose opinion did they ask? Not mine! I want the health care reform bill to pass. I want a public health care option. Our government already runs several very successful public health care programs — Medicare, the VA health system, health care for active military and their families. The bill will not require citizens to participate if they don't wish to do so. But it will allow the American people to create an alternative to the for-profit private health insurance system that makes health care unaffordable for so many of us. Isn't this what government if for? Allowing us to come together to do what is necessary for the common good? What do the opponents of the health care reform bill think uninsured Americans should do? Apparently the opponents think they should just shut up and continue to suffer because they are not as important as the profits of the health insurance companies.
I have a friend who is pretty sure he has cataracts (his vision has become progressively worse), but he won't go to the doctor because he has no health insurance and can't afford it. I have friends who don't have health insurance through work and don't qualify for Medicaid, so they and their children don't get medical care, ever. No check-ups, no shots, no preventative care. My own father does not have health insurance. He has been self-employed most of his life. He chose to put us through college rather than buy insurance for himself. He is waiting until he qualifies for Medicare. I really hope we don't get any nasty surprises for his 65th birthday.
Nicole Baucom Hays
The pictures of the health care protest in Raleigh on The N&O's Web site saddened me deeply. Signs being held up, among other things, claimed "Seor Citizens" would benefit at the expense of presumably native-born senior citizens, that President Obama lives in "Kool-Aid Land," and that H.R. 3200 would bring about the rise of German National Socialism.
The juxtaposition of racism with the references to Nazi Germany sickens me. My grandparents, both German Jews, suffered at the hands of the Third Reich and came to this country seeking tolerance and opportunity.
The health care legislation pending in Congress might well make this nation live up to the promise that drew my grandparents here over fifty years ago. Health care reform could ensure that illness is no longer a barrier to the pursuit of the American dream, and it can be achieved simply by cutting down on a number of wasteful practices that are pervasive under the status quo.
I would like to ask the protesters to think carefully about the kind of nation they would like to live in. Although we need debate over this legislation, fear mongering and racism should not cloud the most important policy debate of my generation.
You can’t seem to pick up the newspaper or look at television news any more without seeing the over-hyped coverage of the protest and town hall meeting disruptions of the anti-health care reform groups, and this is from the supposed “liberal media.” The sad part of this is the misinformation that has been fed to these groups and demagoguery of the whole issue. These groups use terms like socialism, Nazism, “death panels,” euthanasia and government control, none of which are in any of the current health care proposals, as scare tactics. But you rarely if ever see any meaningful solutions from these groups.
A coalition of conservative and health care profiteers successfully defeated the last health care proposal in 1993-4 which was, in my opinion, not a very good plan at all. The problem is these folks never offered a proposal of their own in the next 14 years that they controlled the White House and/or Congress to address this problem. Due to their inaction, the problem of 46 million uninsured, and growing, and the continual skyrocketing cost of health care has hurt our economy and left us with no easy fix.
Unfortunately in this country many adhere to the “if we ignore it, it will go away” mentality. We have put off solving critical issues like Social Security, Medicare, environment, energy and yes, healthcare, mainly due to the fact that there are no painless solutions. The trouble is the longer you put off fixing the problems, the more it will cost to future generations to finally solve these problems, if fixable at all. We have to be able to work together, putting politics aside, to solve our nation’s problems.
Daniel W. Squires, Jr.
Why do those who are demonstrating in Raleigh against and voicing opposition in town hall meetings for the Congressional proposals and discussion of health care legislation, which would include most Americans and reform our health care system, seems so angry, so sure that the federal government is acting arbitrarily, reckless and without regard for their concerns?
Forty percent of Americans currently have no health care insurance because it is not offered where they work, have insufficient plans, which demand no pre-existing conditions, or have no jobs and cannot afford to buy coverage. Who pays when any of those uninsured fellow Americans need hospital care?
Who doesn't know that those costs are passed on to the next patient who has insurance? What is so great about a system whose costs are constantly rising, serves so few, leaves so many in financial ruin and covers only retirees, State and Federal government workers, including members of Congress, really adequately.
From pictures, reports on network and cable news, those angry people lost the last election and are having some difficulty adjusting to the new reality. Congressional elections will be held in 2010 and the presidential election in 2012. Why not have an open discussion without signs that label the president as a Nazi, acrimonious speeches by leaders of the opposition, and down-right bad manners during this national debate on health care? It's too important economically and morally for Americans not to address the health care crisis for rest.
With all the cacophony surrounding discussions of death panels and final solutions, I would like to try to inject a little sanity as a practicing physician. Outpatient visits with primary care physicians are often too short and primarily focused on pressing health care problems.
The federal government has in the past and is currently proposing legislation to pay health care providers for periodically having a discussion with patients as to their advanced directives should they become incurably ill with no chance of recovery. This includes use of life-sustaining measures such as ventilators or feeding tubes when there is no hope of improvement. This may be in the setting of a life-threatening illness in a patient with advanced dementia or incurable, excruciatingly painful cancer.
Rather than arguing about legislation to determine if practitioners should be paid for periodic discussions to help people make advance directives, I would suggest that we all look around at our family members or significant others who are most likely to represent our wishes at the end of life, and ask that person to become a health care power of attorney. Then talk to that person about what you would want in the event that you could not make medical decisions for yourself.
No attorney is needed to create this document, just a notary public and two witnesses. This can be done in banks, medical offices, hospitals. This requires no legislation or monetary output and will assure you that if and when this situation arises, your wishes will be carried through.
Mary Katherine Lawrence
If socialized medicine passes and doctors are paid a salary, the salary would have to be sufficient to attract our brightest minds into medicine. Otherwise you wouldn’t. That would not decrease cost of services.
Also, its not been sufficiently explained how you force everyone to obtain insurance. As it is, a lot of people, mostly young ones, forego insurance. Bear in mind the only system that works is one of coercion. We collect Social Security taxes through a coercive system. You can’t apply that to medical insurance too. So you mandate that everyone must purchase insurance. Even then, some would allow it to lapse at the first opportunity. The bureaucracy involved to see that people are insured and remain insured would be substantial.
There is no system under the sun that would permit infinite sums to be spent to maintain a life, any life. No government anywhere can promote such a system. Under a socialized system, you would stand in line to see a salaried doctor. That’s more equal, perhaps, but it seems like instead of raising the medical bar it just brings all down to a very low level of care.
The proposal of providing medical Insurance for all the people of this country has been labeled a socialist program by many. Since labeling is very important to many people, I like to label the present medical insurance policy in this country as capitalist medical policy and we know how bad it is.
Programs like Medicare, the VA health system, Medicaid and medical benefits for the members of Congress are all socialist programs and they are good programs. Let’s get rid of the non-working capitalist-style health insurance program and replace it with socialist Medicare-type program for every citizen of this country from the newborn baby to the president. Everybody will have exactly the same coverage. Anyone who wants more can pay more to get more.
I am 73 years old. It costs me close to $260/month for Medicare and supplemental insurance. About $100 is deducted from my Social Security to pay for Medicare. Can any policy beat the cost vs. benefits provided by Medicare? I believe if the cost vs. benefits are known, everybody will jump on it. This is the best choice for the country. My monthly payment will go down if an additional 290 million-plus people join the program.
Take the Medicare program and take out the age constraint. This is a proven workable system serving millions of seniors. Let it serve “all the people.” The program had already been debated. So there is no need for any debate. Call it socialist or capitalist — it does not matter. Get it on the table.
Apan Basu, PE
There is no excuse for the fact that in the wealthiest country in the world over 47 million of our fellow citizens have no health insurance at all and millions more are, or will be, in a similar situation if they lose their jobs.
We believe a balance of public and private options will help ensure an equitable and effective system. The proposed legislation builds on Medicare, a highly successful program that operates with more efficiency and less overhead than any private insurer. We are the government and can influence government policies and legislation but have no influence with insurance companies.
The American people have been presented with an opportunity to make meaningful improvements in our health care system and we should seize it. It will not be perfect. It will need ongoing tweaking, but if we wait until the current system is completely broken, it may be too costly or impossible to fix. A thoughtful, informed discussion of the merits of different approaches benefits us all. We have an obligation as citizens to be well-informed about the issues and contribute to the discussion in a constructive manner. (One excellent source of objective information is: http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2009/aug/13/heath-care-fact-checks-greatest-hits-vol-1)
Change is often frightening but doing nothing is even scarier.
Duncan and Marsha Munn
On Page 1B of the Sunday paper, Rob Christensen wrote that health care can't be simple, explaining why the current health care reform bills can't be condensed to 10 easily understood points. He goes on to say, "To have an informed debate, you need a grasp of how the current health-care system works, problems with the current system, and the best options for fixing it." On the op-ed page of the same paper, John Hammond, professor emeritus at the UNC School of Medicine, offered an excellent brief explanation of the problem and the solution.
1. America needs to decide that everyone should have access to health care, including routine and preventive care. Our existing system is expensive and not as effective as those of other countries.
2. Once we agree to that premise, we need to decide how to pay for it.
Currently we spend hundreds of billions of dollars trying to decide whom to bill for each individual visit to a physician or hospital. A single-payer system would save that money. If we make a moral commitment to provide health care to everyone and drop the divide and profit approach of health insurance, we can afford it. Health insurance companies could still have a roll administering the payments, as they do now for Medicare.
I’m very worried by the sign held by the young anti-healthcare reform protester in the photo on Saturday’s front page (N&O, Aug. 15).
It said No Single Payer, which is how our Medicare program operates, and No Socialism, meaning no government-owned and -operated facilities, which is what our VA system is.
Are these protests against health care reform actually, under the surface, aimed at ending Medicare and the VA system? Is that their ultimate goal? It certainly fits some of their favorite slogans.
I can’t forget that much of this same anti-Democratic crowd tried to un-do Social Security too about seven or eight years ago.
If you are like me, then you are close to someone who cannot afford healthcare. If you are like me, then you want a solution to your health care problem. Finally, if you are like me, then you have watched the debates and heard the demands from people to either fix or stay away from their healthcare.
Individual opinions differ but they all have one thing in common — each is motivated by their health care needs. President Obama has maintained that this is a personal issue — indeed it is so personal that everyone wants something from it.
My question is. if you are like me and I am like you and each of us wants the same thing — healthcare for ourselves and our family — then why can’t we realize that we are all in this together? I cannot foot the full health care bill for myself and neither can you.
When we realize that your health care and my health care are a shared responsibility, then we can stand up and say what we are willing to do in order to make my health care and your health care and their health care our health care.
Abraham Lincoln said, America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
Over the years, America has faced numerous disastrous dilemmas — slavery, women’s rights, the Depression, civil rights and even major foreign aggression. Once again, the country is faced with a crippling dilemma, healthcare. It must be fixed to ensure every citizen has the opportunity to live a quality lifestyle. If not, America’s standard of living is surely at risk — the risk of weakening our competitiveness, fostering a society where millions will be denied the basic coverage, and forcing seniors to make choices between food and medicine.
We are America — this dilemma can be solved: not with lies, hatred or disrespect for others but by a joint willingness to do what is best for Americans and not for the party. The choice is ours! As Moses stated, I have set before you today life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendents may live (Deuteronomy 30:19).
As Americans, let us stop squabbling among ourselves but demand our elected officials carry out the responsibility they were elected to do — serve the people.
The Aug. 19 opinion article by Froma Harrop of The Providence Journal is a prime example of why we need a public health option in health reform —simply to keep the insurance companies honest.
I had a similar, though not as dire, situation with CIGNA last year. Due to CIGNA's error they had me owing a $1,000 deductible that I did not owe. It took me 11 months to get the situation resolved in my favor.
I could only speak to customer service representatives who could then send the details to "adjusters" to correct. Well, they did a lousy job of correcting. I believe part of the problem is they are all on the clock to handle an issue as quickly as possible and therefore did not read all the facts. It was a bit complicated but not brain surgery or rocket science.
I persisted and finally involved a supervisor (two actually — the first failed). Even then I could not speak to an adjuster, but this customer service supervisor finally got the adjusters to remove the erroneous deductible. Actually they owed this money to the physician once it was taken off my responsibility.
Because of this situation, some of my bills got bounced back and forth and there were several different negotiated amounts that were deeply discounted from the "sticker price" bills the hospital and physicians initially sent. So in my opinion health pricing is worse than buying a car, as the true price and profit are deeply hidden. Hospitals and doctors cry foul, but I seldom see a doctor, hospital or health insurance company cut back or go bankrupt.
I once believed that health co-ops would work, but after listening to several programs on talk radio, I find they are currently too loosely defined to be successful on a large-scale basis in the near future. Perhaps at some point in the future, well-run and protected health co-ops could replace the public option.
David W. Dukes Jr.
Kathleen Parker’s recent column happily touted Mr. Mackey of Whole Foods fame as being the greatest thing since sliced bread (pun intended) while forwarding no new proposals for real health-care reform. The health-care system in this country is badly broken and needs fixing now. Health-care costs have increased 10 times more than wages have in the last 10 years for everyone and will continue increasing unless something is done now. None of the suggestions by Mackey addresses this problem. Oh, he touts HSA accounts. Well, he only touts them because they increase Whole Foods and his profits, not because they provide better or more effective health care. The move to HSAs was because companies could no longer afford to pay exorbitant insurance costs! Nice little marketing gimmick, eh?
By the way HSAs can lose value as they are tied to stock market profits (bad idea). Mackey’s other suggestions are more akin to putting a Band-Aid where a patient’s limb used to be.
While it may be true we do not have a right to health care, we do have the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, according to the Declaration of Independence any way. Should extremely and unjustified high health care and drug corporation profits infringe upon these rights? I think not!
I can remember many times when my peers would say: Why should we pay for health coverage that subsidizes older (or less fortunate) people who use the benefits more than we do? The reason we do pay to help others see the doctor when they are ill is because without those older (or perhaps less fortunate) folks, we would not be here!
I will admit Parker is right about one thing. Processed foods are one cause of obesity. Does she offer some solution for those who cannot afford to shop at Whole Foods? No. Why should she bother? She has her slice of the pie and that is all she cares about. That, my friends, is why this country is in such a mess: individual and corporate greed that is corrupting us all.
Make no mistake about the debate over health-care reform. It is about the haves and the have-nots and those who are in and those on the outside. It is truly revolutionary!
Intolerant behavior is seen in public meetings on health insurance reform where speakers have been shouted down. More seriously, it is being expressed as a reported 400 percent increase in death threats to President Obama over that of President Bush, a rise in anti-government militias and loaded weapons appearing at public forums.
Although most share a genuine passion on both sides of the health-care debate, elements of the media have been gaming intolerance, and that is dangerous practice. Rush Limbaugh has a long history of issuing racially offensive language that cost him his job at ESPN in 2003. He has, for example, used the term halfrican American and played a tune called “Barack the Magic Negro” on his show. He has gamed intolerance and then tells his audience that he hopes this president fails. Glenn Beck (Fox News) has drawn comparison between the Democratic and Nazi parties. There are those who believe this absurdity, and pictures are circulated of Obama sporting a Hitler-style mustache and talk of death squads as part of the proposed legislation.
The behavior is destructive, divisive and even dangerous. It is counterproductive to achieving a meaningful national dialogue on social issues. Although some defend the right of the media to issue such rhetoric, we as a public, and corporations, have no obligation to condone, support or sponsor this brand of irresponsible journalism.
Dr. Art Kamm
We have had many household discussions about how to ultimately get health-care reform to pass in Congress.
First, we agree that the insurance companies should not decline individuals because of pre-existing conditions.
Also, it could be implemented in phases — extending Medicare to certain ages each year. Or perhaps if Democrats are in favor of reform and Republicans are not, then cover Democrats and let Republicans find their own private health care. I like it!
I received a fax from the office of Congressman Tom Price (R-GA). The fax was a draft of a news release that listed me as a potential “consultant on the Physician’s Council for Responsible Reform to honor the achievements of you and other concerned physicians like you.” The draft goes on to say that I will be receiving special briefings and providing input to Republican members of Congress during their deliberations of the Obama administration’s efforts to reform health care.
As one who opposes wholeheartedly this group’s methods and goals, I was surprised and concerned that my name was listed without first contacting me. I suspect that other physicians have unwittingly been placed in the same position. I called the council’s office to remove my name from the list, but I hope that officials in Washington are aware of the questionable approaches taken by this group to achieve its political goals.,
Michael Freemark, M.D.
Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Professor and Chief, Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes, Duke University Medical Center
It’s funny, but sad, to watch government once again try to fix the health-care industry. During the 1930s Blue Cross/Blue Shield, aka the Blues achieved nonprofit status rather than for profit, while also receiving a tax-exempt status from the federal government. In exchange for nonprofit status, the Blues agreed to offer insurance using community rating, as well as offer coverage for everything from catastrophic care to routine care. This one intervention by the federal government wreaked havoc on the commercial insurance industry since the primary purpose of commercial insurers was to provide coverage for catastrophic care only.
In addition, commercial insurers still had to follow state regulations, pay taxes and eventually deal with state mandates. This one action by the federal government took incentive away from consumers to compare and contrast prices and also decreased the incentive for hospitals and doctors to provide competitive prices. In addition, the bureaucracies whether governmental or private insurance companies that administer these payments also have to be paid, therefore contributing even more to the rise of costs.
I believe the current system in unsustainable, and unless some changes are made it will most likely get worse before it gets better. The change that is proposed today by the Obama administration points us in a direction that infringes on individual rights and builds on a faulty system by injecting more faults. Instead, we should take the Hippocratic Oath of doctors to do no harm and rehabilitate a flawed system and let the free market inspire the creativity needed to produce progressive and modern marvels of medicine and health care.
Recently President Obama spoke in New Hampshire and Arizona about his health-care reform. In both cases and in accordance with those states’ gun laws, people showed up bearing arms. Not in a show of force, but as an expression of their rights.
One person at the Arizona meeting stated if we don’t exercise our rights we will lose them. I'm not a history major, but I'm sure there are people who can verify the loss of rights occurring because of complacency. This is the very thing that makes President Obama good for America. We as a nation have grown comfortable and self-satisfied with our basic constitutional rights. Do I go so far as to say even ignorant of them (talk to high school students and find out what they know. Challenge: Which amendment guarantees the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances?)
While President Obama’s mentality of governing is challenging us as a nation and pushing us, albeit unintentionally, to exercise our rights, we do have to be careful. I want to encourage people to start asking questions. During his campaign, President Obama spouted, “Change.” Did anyone ask, “What kind of change?”
Before you think me anti-change, let me say change must be forged out of wisdom not for the benefit of a select few. Let me present something I learned recently. Does anybody believe there is a conflict of interest when the President of J.P. Morgan bank has a direct line to the president of the United States? Is anyone asking, "Should the banking industry be influenced by the President of the United States?" Here’s my challenge to all of us; the next time President Obama says anything, ask a question: "For what purpose?" "Where's the money coming from?" "Do the American people really want this?" Exercise our rights or we lose them.
President Thomas Jefferson once said, "I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their father conquered."
How did this uproar over “end of life” including “death panels” get so out of hand? For many years there has been a section of Medicare and Section 5-Planning Ahead, pages 105-106 in the 2009 publication that addresses "Have Your Voice Heard Through Advance Directives." The only thing added to the health-care proposal is reimbursement for physicians who discuss this with patients.
In other words, it should be treated as an office visit. It would lead you to believe that this 128-page document is not read by Medicare recipients, rather they rely on sound bites — and look where that has gotten the dialogue!!
So the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress want to take over health care for the country. Well, let’s see how one of their other schemes has worked out.
The Cash for Clunkers program was to take taxpayer money and give up to $4,500 to someone to trade in an old car and buy a new one. Within two weeks the budget for this program went from $1 billion taxpayer dollars to $3 billion taxpayer dollars. A lot of people, understandably, felt that if the federal government wanted to give them $4,500 of other peoples money, they would be willing to take it. And now we find out that a large number of car dealers who fronted the administration and Congress the money have not been paid because of the federal bureaucracy and paperwork.
The losers: the car dealers and the American taxpayer. The winners: the people who took the government money and the government employees, whose ranks will be expanding. I am not exactly sure which part of this success story is supposed to fill me with confidence in handing over my medical care to them.
Remember back when Joe the plumber asked a simple question of a presidential candidate, his personal life was examined and he was vilified by some media? The same has happened to many others speaking negatively about the current administration in Washington.
I saw a news report about the grocery chain Whole Foods, which employees 50,000 plus people. The CEO announced he had some problems with health-care reform and offered eight of his ideas for improvement. Soon after that there were 18,000-plus entries on one Web site calling for a boycott of the grocery chain.
I believe somewhere in the current administration there is an effort to make people afraid to make negative comments about government plans. I do not believe this has happened out of Washington before — what has happened to free speech over the past several months?