There are a many vitriolic emails circulating right now; Obama Grandma did a fantastic job responding to one debunking HR3200 myths. Another by very conservative radio host Dennis Prager just hit my hometown's (relatively liberal) rag as a LTE. Evidently the editors didn't realize that it was a blast email. Below is my point by point response. Feel free to lift what you wish of this for YOUR LTEs. BTW, I admit (sorrowfully) to borrowing lines from others' Kos diaries w/o attribution: I didn't record who said what (e.g., the excellent example of not being able to afford your town's fine restaurant) because it didn't originally matter for my hometown LTE. Apologies though, in this arena.
Also, I won't submit for another day or so; your comments and ideas/criticisms are welcome. Some answers are definitely weaker than others. I know the writing's a bit snarky, but such is the style of the Telegraph. Clean it up for your own LTEs...:
Wow, Telegraph, true to your promise, you will ‘print damned near anything’ – including email blast letters from right winger radio talk host Dennis Prager ("Questioning ObamaCare"). At first, I thought Prager lived near here, and so I set out to research fully his objections to answer them with, you know, facts and figures. I now doubt he’ll actually read my responses, but hopefully someone else out there will.
- Supporters of health care reform substitute the word ‘care’ for ‘insurance’ because, while America offers excellent care (state of the art MRIs, cancer treatments, etc.), it’s only for those who can afford it. Think of a town with a four star restaurant: most of the people in the town can't afford to eat there, but someone (probably the restaurant's owner, or one of its patrons) will brag about their town having the best food in the state. Too many Americans are not able to eat at the common table. According to data collected in 2007, the American Journal of Medicine has found that health care costs caused 62.1% of all bankruptcies at that time.
- The right wing keeps yammering about the ‘fears of medical rationing of health care’. But I ask, is that not what insurance companies currently do? Every procedure must be vetted through your insurer; many are denied despite the best honest opinion of your doctor. The public option in health insurance will NOT take away your choice about doctors, nor interfere with what can be done on your behalf. The public option will, however, prohibit providers from withholding insurance because you have a pre-existing medical condition and prohibit them from recinding insurance if you get more ill. No longer will you lose your insurance if you change jobs, lose jobs, start a business, or are self employed. All this, with a cap on what you pay the insurance companies each year, but no cap on the benefits you receive. This can all be done effectively, but cutting existing waste and reining in exhorbitant profits (see below).
- What about the poor pharmaceutical companies? With 4.4% of the world’s population, the U.S. contributed more than one third of global pharma revenues. We do take more drugs, but we also pay more for them. A study in the British Medical Journal (2005) suggests that:
a/ Prices of patented drugs are substantially higher in the US than in other affluent countries;
b/ Published reports indicate that pharmaceutical companies in affluent countries recover research and development costs from domestic sales with substantial profits;
c/ Discovery of innovative new drugs in Europe is proportionately equal to that in the US;
d/ US pharmaceutical companies invest just 1.3% of net sales in basic research. The balance is spent on MARKETING.
- Would a public option would unfairly compete against private insurance companies? Many of Prager’s listeners will be relieved to learn that private insurance companies’ profits expanded 426% in the seven years to 2009. Don’t worry about the insurance CEOs too badly: in 2007, the five year compensation package for United Health Group’s CEO was $534 million; Cardinal Health, $32M; Cigna, $64M; Wellpoint, 46.8M. I wish I had those problems.
But let me ask a different question: why should we be more concerned about private companies’ CEOs and shareholders than we should about our fellow citizens’ health??
- Most doctors – particularly primary care physicians – and hospitals SUPPORT a public option and total health care reform. (Many specialists do not). Physicians estimate that they spend at least 20% of their time dealing with insurance-related b.s., not helping patients. Most got into this business to help people, and they’ll be able to better focus on that.
- About needless procedures and malpractice...: A new report has shown the cost of medical malpractice lawsuits is insignificant to the total cost of health care. As detailed in the report, the total share of malpractice costs was less than 1% of health care costs, or more precisely 0.6%. Furthermore, while malpractice payments in 2008 hit an all time low, and dropped for the third consecutive year, health care costs continued to rise (Public Citizen, 2009).
- Obama and the Dems are working hard to find ways to make health care affordable to 97% of Americans WITHOUT increasing the federal deficit. I, personally, can think of lots of ideas, most of which appear would hit direct directly on Mr. Prager’s heartland radio listeners – e.g., what about rescinding Bush’s tax cut to the wealthiest one percent of Americans?
- And, last but most important: We are NOT healthier than citizens of other nations. We do NOT wait less time for urgent procedures and surgeries. The last time the World Health Organization checked, we were 37th! We are ranked 118th for our Infant Mortality Rate –fewer babies die per thousand in Cuba than in the US. Again, we have great medical care, but it’s beyond the reach of too many. In every age category except one the death rates per 100,000 are significantly lower in the 'socialist' countries than in the USA. In the 15-55 age bracket the death rates are more than 30% lower than in the US.
Urgent procedures are taken care of immediately in all industrialized countries I know (UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Norway, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, to name a few). Optional, or non urgent procedures, do take longer but heh, guess what, they’re basically FREE. Personally, I can wait an extra two months to get a hip replaced if it doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg.