What health reform must do | June 21, editorial
Let Medicare cover all Americans
The three guiding principles espoused in your editorial are certainly laudable, but our current direction toward health care "reform" will not, unfortunately for the American people, make any of them come to pass.
Universal coverage is essential to any true reform, but the current plans being debated in Congress fall woefully short of that goal. As you note, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that current plans in the Senate come with a price tag of $1 trillion over the next 10 years, while still leaving 36 million without any coverage.
We already spend enough to insure everyone right now and it's 2 1/2 times what the average industrialized country spends. To pump additional monies into a system that over the last 50 years has proven itself wasteful, expensive, complicated and which produces poorer health outcomes than other countries is as absurd as it is reckless.
Medical cost increases dramatically outpace inflation and wages year after year. The only way we will ever control these costs is to utilize the purchasing power of the federal government to negotiate with suppliers, pharmaceutical companies, doctors and hospitals on behalf of all taxpayers and demand quality, efficiency and effectiveness for our health care dollars.
We currently lose more than 30 percent of each dollar spent for private insurance companies' overhead, profits and bonuses. That's $600 billion annually that should be spent on providing health care. The current plans look to cutting Medicare and Medicaid funding and taxing the health benefits of workers to pay for more private plans. Those "solutions" can only exacerbate the current problems and inequities in our system.
I agree that we need to build on what works in our current system, but that is not private insurance. It's Medicare, a program that already provides care to more than 44 million seniors with higher satisfaction ratings than employer-sponsored private insurance plans. Medicare enrollees have more choice of doctors and hospitals than those in "network" limited private plans. And with only a 3 percent overhead, the savings of a "Medicare for All" program would be more than enough to cover all of the uninsured without any additional benefit cuts or spending.
Greg M. Silver, M.D., Clearwater
What health reform must do June 21, editorial
A single-payer system will add to our woes
In this editorial the Times continues to slavishly cheerlead the Obama administration's initiative for socialized medicine. The Times and the president insist that his version of universal coverage would allow Americans to keep their present coverage if they wish. But this is a Trojan horse.
There is no way that any private sector insurer can compete with a taxpayer-subsidized system and this will ultimately drive everyone into the government single-payer system. The president also asserts that a government system will be fully funded by soaking the rich and mining efficiencies with a huge new bureaucracy. This is astonishingly disingenuous.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has issued preliminary estimates that the cost could be high as $2 trillion over 10 years. Even squeezing Medicare payments and adding new tax revenue will not pay for the massive cost that would still leave millions without coverage.
The gigantic cost of universal health care acknowledged by the administration will inevitably drive up taxes and probably result in rationing as has been the case in Canada, the United Kingdom and Europe.
We do not have a health care crisis in this country. We have a health care cost crisis. The Times is correct on one point. We should build on what works. But the Times continues to ignore the fundamental problem with a third-party-payer system. Health insurance should be limited to catastrophic injury or illness, not routine care. If our car insurance looked like our health insurance we'd have oil change coverage, flat tire coverage, lost car key coverage and probably parking ticket coverage as well.
Zero competition in a government administered single-payer plan will only exacerbate the problem. Incentives like tax-exempt health savings accounts, a little tort reform, immigration reform, a little less government regulation and a little more private sector competition would go a long way toward resolving this.
Timothy S. "Mac" McDonnell, St. Petersburg
Our health care system, the means of delivering health care and the way we finance it need to be changed.
We are hearing that people don't want a system that requires them to change their physician. Their physician is subject to change at any time under the present system. Our present system, in which employee coverage is arranged and paid for partly or in full by the employer, is subject to change whenever the cost of the insurance requires a change in the insurance carrier. A new plan may or may not include your current physician. At any time an employee may have to search for a physician who accepts the new plan.
Another objection is: "We don't want a government bureaucrat making medical decisions best left to our physician." There really isn't any difference whether that bureaucrat is employed by the government or your insurance company.
The one big advantage of a single-payer system is that it would be the only game in town and your physician would be more likely to keep you because your health coverage would be covering all patients.
Paul C. Blatt, Dunedin
Profiting on sickness
If we all sent a small amount to our alleged representatives in Congress, maybe it would be greater than what they receive from the lobbyists and maybe they would do what we (70 to 75 percent of us) want: health care for all.
Of course, the insurance, health and drug companies would raise their amount because they do not want to give up the "cash cow" of making profits on the illness, injury and medications of other citizens.
These CEOs are the great entrepreneurs in the free market, making fortunes on the misfortunes of others. Every dollar of profit and salary comes from the sick, injured and dying. And our Congress thinks that's just the American way.
John Culkin, St. Petersburg
Use Social Security
One question constantly asked during the ongoing debate on health care reform is: How are we going to pay for it?
There is already a system in place that could do the job: Social Security.
The bureaucracy is already in place. Yes, the payroll tax would go up for both employers and employees, but it would produce savings in other areas. It would also give younger workers a stake in the system, whereas many now feel that they will never see any return on the money they are now contributing.
Joseph H. Brown, Tampa
Charter schools improving June 20, letter
Reject these schools
When the idea of charter schools began, the selling points were: Charter schools can educate children better and more cheaply than regular public schools. It is now clear that charter schools do neither. Research has demonstrated for several years that charter schools were not doing as well as regular public schools. Finally, the fact that charter schools do not educate children better has been publicized.
It is also a fact that per-pupil spending in charter schools is higher than the per-pupil spending in regular public schools. How is this possible? The local school board must spend as much money per charter school student as is spent on the regular school student. In addition, charter schools get state grants, federal grants and grants from large corporations and political organizations.
Our Legislature needs to repeal the charter school laws and support our public schools. This of course will not happen. The real purpose of allowing charter schools is to create a step toward privatizing our schools.
Jim Bailey, Clearwater
Consider the positives
Charter schools are often looked upon as the red-haired stepchild (so to speak) of the traditional school system. Ron Matus' recent article (Charter schools get poor marks, June 16) was yet another unfair slam on a system that, while not perfect, is doing the best it can.
According to the Stanford report, 37 percent of charter schools offer an education below the level of traditional schools. That is mathematically equivalent to saying that almost two-thirds of them offer an education at or above the level of traditional schools, but Matus chose to present the negative point of view.
I know from experience that in middle school math competitions, charters schools can knock the traditional schools out of the water. The fact that one-third of charter schools perform below traditional schools doesn't require a negative outlook on all charters. Perhaps a better way to present findings on charter schools is to suggest that charters as a whole are about equal to traditional schools. There are failing charter schools, just like there are failing traditional schools. There are stellar charter schools as well.
Not every kid belongs in a charter school, but some students flourish in that sort of environment. The public needs to remember the positives of the schools, not as a false sense of hope, but to recognize that schools not following the traditional path are still acceptable.
Laura Conover, Seffner