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Why not single payer?

In a Q-and-A recently posted on the Web site Crooks & Liars (, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to one of the questions by saying, "For 30 years I have supported a single-payer plan, but our next best choice is to support an exchange and a public option." The question that her response prompts from me is, why are we giving up on the best solution and settling for something that, from all appearances, is a whole lot less than "next best?"

The House plan is not set to go "live" until January of 2013. No, that is not a typo.

If I told you that in less than a year after the historic Medicare legislation was signed into law, the program was up and running, and millions of older Americans had been enrolled and were getting health care with hardly a hiccup, wouldn't you wonder why it's going to take so long to get essential elements of this version of reform in place? Wouldn't you wonder why the elements that are designed to help the millions of uninsured are the ones that are going to take the longest to implement?

Or, maybe, you wondered if there's a political reason why the plan won't be fully operational until 2013, like the fact that we will have a presidential election in November of 2012, and it might not be good for the fortunes of the current president or the senators and representatives up for re-election if a new health care system is not going well or is not all it was advertised to be.

So, what will the millions of currently uninsured people do between now and 2013? And, with an economy in decline, thousands of people losing their jobs every month and losing their coverage, with more employers changing to plans that cover less and cost the individual more, or dropping coverage altogether, how much more dire will things be in four years?

What will the insurance companies be doing between now and 2013? How will they be positioning themselves to accommodate the changes that are coming? What will we see from them in the next 3 1/2 years that will signal they have even the slightest interest in improving our access to and delivery of actual health care?

What this is really all about, where the focus should have been from the start, is health care, not insurance. Having a shiny new insurance policy will not help if the out-of-pocket costs are such that people still cannot afford to see the doctor or get the medications they need.

All of the major developed nations have some form of single-payer health care. Their spending per-person on health care is less than half what we spend here, and their people are, by most accepted measures, healthier than we are. Why are we writing 1,000-plus-page bills, creating a Rube Goldberg-ian system whose biggest benefit will be to insurance companies that have done nothing in the last several decades to improve the current system - but a lot to assist the political careers of more than a few members of Congress who are crafting this "reform" (and making those who need accessible and affordable care the most wait the longest to get it) - when we have a single-payer model, Medicare, that we know works well and could be expanded or duplicated with relative ease and in a much shorter period of time?

Anne G. Schoonmaker, Sparks

Feds, stay out of health care

It's interesting how the president and the liberal socialist Democrats in Congress, including Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin, are framing the debate about reforming health care in America. If only the Republicans and other concerned citizens would stop funding critical or opposing views of Barack Obama's plans to nationalize health care, socialized medicine can finally become the reality a grateful country would welcome. Really?

When has the federal government ever performed any service or operated any program efficiently, effectively and at a low cost? Other than the military, can anyone name a government program that is done really well? At the present time Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid represent over $53 trillion in unfunded liabilities, are riddled with fraud and abuse, and are totally unsustainable for our children and grandchildren. The trust funds ostensibly set aside to pay these benefits have been completely stolen by the federal government and the programs have been mismanaged into bankruptcy. The same can be said for the highway and pension trust funds. As we speak, reports are that even Obama's $787 billion stimulus has already been mismanaged with over $60 billion going to the states to fund services and other pork projects that will not create one single job.

Having said that, who in their right mind would want the federal government to now take over the health care decisions for themselves and their family? Why would anyone believe the federal government would do a better job managing their health care than they themselves, especially given its history of handling virtually everything else it's tried poorly or worse?

My suggestion is that everyone, regardless of political affiliation, gather up their children and grandchildren and ask whether they want to trust their health and physical and mental well being to the decisions that will be made for them by federal government bureaucrats. That exercise should help everyone arrive at the right answer.

With the help of a skeptical, independent media, people might be able to better see both sides of this debate and draw better conclusions about what is in their best interests. Once health care is nationalized, and under the control of the federal government and their minions, there will be no going back.

Chick Chickanis, Columbia

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