Dear Sen. Kennedy,
Numerous newspaper articles detail your hard work on a health plan for submission to President Obama in January. Health care was one of the two leading domestic issues (the other being the economy) for those voting for Sen. Obama, and it is especially important to the 47 million Americans with no health coverage, and to the additional huge number of citizens who are underinsured and thus one major family illness away from bankruptcy.
It is important to the rest of us, as well. A recent nonbinding question on the ballot in many Massachusetts districts stressing health care as a human right and calling for universal, single-payer health care was overwhelmingly approved (average 73 percent) by the voters. Many polls of physicians both in Massachusetts and nationally show that a majority of physicians now favor such a plan.
At present, the myriad companies (multiple payers) providing health insurance require mountains of paperwork from physician offices and hospitals, adding to medical costs. Then patients face exclusions for previous illnesses, the preapproval process, the varying menus of often stripped-down services paid for or not, allowed or not, the often high copays and premiums, all of which require them to navigate a labyrinthine maze before they get what they need, or they give up and forgo care.
Sick people shouldn't have to go through this! Insurance companies should not be practicing medicine. A previous illness should not be treated like a previous conviction. These corporations take almost one-third of the health care dollar off the top for administrative costs, marketing, dividends to stockholders and often huge CEO salaries and benefits.
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In contrast, Medicare retains only 3 percent to 5 percent for overhead costs. That means providing a strengthened (the current administration has cut it back and diluted it) Medicare-type system for all would result in savings of billions of dollars now taken by insurance corporations. Government contracts with pharmaceutical corporations for bulk-purchase reduced drug pricing, currently forbidden by the Bush administration, would save still more billions of health dollars now pocketed by Big Pharma. Employers would no longer be responsible for providing insurance, saving them money and obviating the need for tax breaks they receive for doing so.
All other First World countries unquestioningly provide universal health care for their citizens, have better health outcomes than the U.S. (we're 37th in World Health Organization ranking) and pay far less than we do per capita. Decent societies ensure health care for all just as they provide education, clean water and police and fire protection.
Sen. Kennedy, you have fought the great fight, representing what is good and right for your constituents here in Massachusetts and for Americans across our great country, and you are the go-to senator on health care.
Our country is now at a crossroads, with the promise of change. Please don't be timid about changing the health care system. Don't listen to the bands of lobbyists who want to retain the present investor-owned private insurance industry and the profit-engorged pharmaceutical companies' dominance. Speak once again for all Americans, who deserve universal, single-payer, government-financed, privately provided health care. Can we do this for America?
Yes, we can.