Greed led to ailing system

Free market greed led to ailing system

To the editor,

In the spirit of open discussion, I’d like to respond to Rep. J. Paul Brown’s anecdotal letter regarding health care (Telegraph, Dec. 3)

Brown mentions that he is thankful for those who have health-care coverage.  Amen.  But does he think coverage for millions of people just happened? No. He doesn’t – perhaps can’t – admit this, but it happened because of Obamacare, which prohibits insurance companies from excluding individuals with pre-existing conditions.  

Here is another anecdote for Brown’s store. I am one of those people with a pre-existing condition. The only coverage I could find after losing my job in the depths of the recession – caused by the wild, criminal speculation of the financial industry – was from a managed-care consortium at a premium of $900 per month. That’s for one person. I have no complaints. I felt lucky to find coverage at all. I was able to fund that cost through a business I started and was fortunate to make successful. As I’m sure Brown would agree, hooray for my very small private enterprise!  

My story continues. Shortly before Obamacare was implemented, I “graduated” to Medicare. My out-of-pocket costs are less than 50 percent of my former premiums, supplemental policies included. Deductibles exist but they are minor because the insurance itself is comprehensive.

Now from the anecdotal to the data-driven. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that Obamacare will cost about 11 percent less over the next 10 years than what had originally been projected. One reason? Health care premiums are rising much more slowly than projected and thus require less of a government subsidy (as reported March 9 in The Washington Post.) But Brown’s anecdotal evidence is surely correct. That slow rise in premiums is ending. I’ve seen it in increased costs for my Medicare supplements.

My point, for now, is this: private insurance companies exist because somebody thought they could make a buck. But profit requires controlling costs; that’s why insurers excluded people with pre-existing conditions in the first place. The individuals and families Brown mentions in his letter are victims not of some Obamacare policy or web site problems but the need for insurance companies to cover their costs. Those costs, by all accounts, have been rising, primarily because their risk pool is sicker than they anticipated and thus their costs are higher. Obamacare contributed to this problem but didn’t create it; it is the price paid for broadly increased coverage.

Private drug companies contribute to insurance costs. Collectively, pharmaceutical companies appear to be among the most shamelessly greedy industries on earth, making oil companies look like cuddly friends of the earth by comparison. One recent example is Martin Shkreli, the CEO of privately held Turing Pharmaceuticals. Just a few months ago, he boosted the price of a drug called Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per pill, an increase of over 5,000 percent. Obamacare has nothing to do with this, which is not an isolated example. Is that the kind of free enterprise solution Brown is recommending?

Shkreli thought he could do this because Big Pharma, with its excellent lobbyists and trusted politicians, has created an industry that has no price controls and little competition. That’s one reason why drugs are twice as cheap in Canada and why Brown’s fellow conservative John McCain recently co-sponsored legislation to allow individuals to legally import drugs from Canada. I wonder where Brown stands on that issue?

Big Pharma also opposes allowing Medicare to negotiate prices, as Medicaid and the Veterans Administration already do. Why? If your money and lobbyists are good enough, you don’t have to negotiate. So far, the drug companies have succeeded in passing legislation that prohibits Medicare from such negotiation.

My conclusion is the opposite or Brown’s. For-profit enterprise drives health care costs, not Obamacare, and the only way to control those costs while maintaining and expanding coverage – something Brown appears to be in favor of – is a Medicare-for-all type system. Would such a system be perfect? Of course not. Would doctors, hospitals, medical equipment and drug companies like it? Of course not. I almost never have a doctor visit in which my physician doesn’t complain about government regulations in general and Medicare in particular.

We already know what Brown thinks of more government intervention. But we’ve tried free enterprise. It’s what helped make our health-care coverage less inclusive and more expensive than any other comparable country in the world (Source: Commonwealth Fund report 2015). Our health-care outcomes aren’t as good either.

Brown’s is no solution at all.

– John Wallace, Durango

Small changes add up to big ones

To the editor,

I have never been particularly involved in politics, but something about this election is different for me. This election will be my first opportunity to vote, and I decided not to take this privilege for granted. I want to get involved because I want my voice heard. Even if what I do makes a small fraction of a difference, if I don’t try, I am choosing to make no difference at all.

I’m part of the future generation, and I want to tell my peers that we will all be affected by this coming election, and we can determine our future. If we want to see changes that are in our favor, we need to take matters into our own hands. By not voting in the primary, we are giving up our control. We will have a choice in who runs our country if we take the opportunity to vote. That’s why I am registering as a Democrat and voting for Bernie Sanders, the candidate who I believe will take this country in the direction it needs to go ... forward. Rather than allowing this country to regress, which is what I believe could happen if some of the other candidates are elected, I am not going to let that happen.

So to all of you Durango citizens, college students, first time and seasoned voters, I encourage you to vote in the primary as well, so we, together, can make a change for the better. And if you too, think Bernie will lead this country with dedication, then registering as a Democrat and making sure he has a chance as president is the most important thing we can do. If you think he deserves a chance, let’s give him one. We cannot do this as a registered independent or republican. You can temporarily register as a Democrat and choose Bernie as our presidential candidate and make the changes we want.

You can change your party status or register at this website:

– Mikayla Bennion, Fort Lewis College student 

Take a dose of salt with the news

To the editor:

In Monday’s headlines, “U.S. sees major decline in gun violence” sent me to the typewriter. The male-dominated mass shootings, blanketing our brains on all of the news stations, convince me this decline won’t last long. Actual bloody visuals on TV, once unheard of, are the new norm collecting higher ratings and lots of money from the sponsors. All the copycats, brain-washed ISIS sympathizers/lost souls/those with a hidden agenda, are thinking about even more terrifying acts.

Now, a dead Pakistani mother has the stage in the most recent San Bernardino attack. An attorney for her family says she did not do this act. Is this a “Wag of the Dog” or what? The two shooters wore masks at the San Bernardino massacre. I am a mother and can’t imagine any woman leaving a 6-month-old behind. Females instinctively, from the animal kingdom to humans, don’t do outrageous stunts after having a newborn.

My father married into a highly influential newspaper family, with a current circulation all over the country, and he told me more than once to not believe everything in the news, and set-ups were not unheard of, usually by the elite few, that “pull it off” leaving the masses, law enforcement included, duped.

Thankfully, I don’t participate in social media where some are vicious toward people like me. God bless the fact that in the U.S. we still have freedom of speech.

– Sally Florence, Durango




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