Health reform could work |

Health reform could work

Michele Swenson

Re: Debate with Rep. Bob Schaffer, “Your Show” Channel 20, July 20

Dear Rep. Udall,

You serve neither your constituents nor the Democrats well when you revert to distorted language propagated by Republicans surrounding health-care reform.

Referring to single-payer health care as “government health care” short-circuits the debate, and misrepresents single-payer health care, which is in fact a single-risk-pool insurance with free choice of private providers ” the same as traditional Medicare before Republicans moved to privatize Medicare (at 12 percent higher cost). Contrary to assertions by the right-wing “free market” chorus, only single-payer insurance permits unlimited choice of private providers, whereas private insurance limits choice to “in plan” doctors. Only single-payer is capable of providing comprehensive, continuous health benefits and protection against medical bankruptcy.

Why are more legislators like yourself not protesting the abomination of 2003 prescription drug reform, written by insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies with billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies and inflated profits for their bottom lines, while prohibiting negotiation of bulk drug prices? Instead of privatizing Medicare for profit, why not improve and expand its coverage for everyone? Traditional Medicare has run overhead costs of less than 4 percent, whereas private insurances diverts 25 percent or more to profits, lobbying, marketing, exorbitant CEO salaries and wasteful administrative costs. Profit is a perverse incentive for health insurance, which protects its bottom line by reducing benefits and shifting greater costs to consumers.

The insulated political class in Washington, dependent on corporate money and privy to 70 percent-taxpayer-subsidized health coverage, seems out of touch with the U.S. people. Polls by Pew and others have revealed increasing numbers ” 54 to 65 percent ” support a national single-payer health care plan. A recent study reported that 59 percent of U.S. physicians “support government legislation to establish national health insurance,” an increase of 10 percent since 2002 (Annals of Internal Medicine, 3/31/08).

Notably, more than 20 federal and state studies since 1990, including the 2007 Lewin Group evaluation in Colorado, have demonstrated that single-payer health insurance is the only reform model that can both save money and provide comprehensive health care benefits for all. The U.S. Conference of Mayors recently endorsed national health care, specifically HR676.

Rather than parrot distorted political right rhetoric surrounding health care, we have everything to gain from an honest dialogue about quality, safety-centered universal single-payer health care, in place of profiteering health insurance gatekeepers.

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