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The health care battle is joined


My cousin lives in Canada and works at a university, shelving books in the library. He told me the other day that he had to start taking a cholesterol-lowering drug. It's one of those name-brands you see advertised on TV all the time, sandwiched between the erectile dysfunction and gold investment commercials.

It really works, too. I was on it for a while, and my numbers looked great. The doctor was pleased.

Then my company changed health insurance plans, and under the new formula for drugs, the same pill was going to start costing me around $60 to $100 per month (for some reason, the price kept changing). My doctor switched me to a generic, which didn't work quite as well, but was a lot cheaper.

My cousin told me that under his plan, the Ontario Health Plan, he gets that drug for $3 a month.

Now, he pays more in taxes on his salary than I pay. But then, he doesn't have that big fat deduction for his health insurance premium that I have.

You can call his system "socialism" if you want. You can call ours "good old-fashioned American market-driven capitalism."

Either way, I call it dollars I don't have. At least my cousin gets something back.

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I don't believe you. People from Canada come here for health care for anything more serious than a cold.

You can call ours "good old-fashioned American market-driven capitalism."

Actually, an economic system in which private entities (corporations) appear to be in control, while in reality are completely controlled by government, is called corporatism or economic fascism. It didn't work for Mussolini, and it hasn't work well for Clinton/Bush/Obama.

It would be doing a great injustice to the concept of free markets to confuse our convoluted system of health care with economic freedom.

For example, drug patents are essentially monopoly grants given by the government to certain drug companies. This is very similar to the monopolies given out by European monarchs.

These drug patents effectively prevent innovation and competition. The result is high prices and a very limited selection of therapeutic modalities available.

Ethically, one cannot claim ownership of an idea. While I can claim to own the shirt on my back, I cannot claim to own the idea of wearing a shirt. There is a great deal of evidence that patents reduce rather than increase research and development. {See: Against Intellectual Monopoly by Boldrin & Levine; available for free on the internet}

Without patents, statin drugs would be very inexpensive. The drug companies would not spend a fortune to induce physicians to prescribe them. Patients would not suffer since these drugs are only minimally effective in preventing cardiovascular disease. Billions of dollars would be saved, and I'm only scratching the surface.

The thing I love about the so-called health care "debate" is that every nut case (especially the elected nut cases) has their own pet theories about what costs so much, usually tied to whatever political dogma they favor, but in the real world, there are no available facts about where the money actually goes. Nevertheless, without facts, we have scads of detailed 500 page health care proposals floating around in Washington. Every one of them with the claim that it will reduce costs, yet somehow while reducing costs, will need umpty trillion dollars to pay for it.

Chan Lowe is right. Money is fungible. Pay insurance companies to drive you crazy, or pay higher taxes for a health care delivery system that reaches more people. The money is no longer yours.

Frankly, I’d prefer to have better access for all, and assurance that the procedures I need will be done with minimum hassle.

I recently broke my ankle. My insurance doesn’t pay for X-rays taken in the doctor’s office. I was going to have to leave there, go to a radiologist, return to my doctor with the films so he could read them, and then proceed to an orthopedist with a referral. All while hobbling and in pain. STUPID. I just paid for the X-rays myself, and proceeded to the orthopedist. I’m waiting to hear that the orthopedist’s charges are denied because I didn’t have the X-rays done at a radiologist’s office. I repeat … STUPID.

I'm one of the millions of US citizens classified by the health insurers as a person with 'pre-existing conditions'. I was born with mine and they first showed themselves when I was 6 months old. Without employer-provided health insurance, I'd have none. The few insurers even willing to talk to me about an individual policy priced it so high I could never have paid for it.

My current policy has recently shifted to exclude coverage of one of the prescriptions I've used, unless the doctor submits reams of justification. So those who argue that government involvement means rationing need to understand that we already have it, and the decisions about what meds or treatments we are allowed are not being made by doctors. They are being made by accountants.

That said, I live in fear that the man I voted for, who said who would not tax employer-provided health insurance, will do so. That will mean that most of my healthier co-workers, who may be able to get private insurance, will leave our group. When only people like me remain in a group, the price of insurance will be too high, even if my employer splits it with us.

I hope the effort to pay for health insurance for those now uninsured can be done without removing insurance from the rest of us. Without health insurance, I will either have to move to Canada or give up on living.

Shayna --

If I were in your shoes, I would be writing to my Senators and Congressman to support President Obama's health care proposals, particularly the public option.

I believe that a public option is the only way to prevent insurance companies from continuing to foster the underwriting and exclusion problems you endure. They won't change their policies without a big stick.

True, there has been talk about taxing employer-provided insurance, but I believe that any such tax is not proposed at dollar 1 of such coverage. Plus, if there is a public option, you will have at least one other option too.

As a U.S. citizen residing in Canada I can only hope that President Obama will make good on his word and provide all citizens of the United States with the proper access to affordable health care. We, in Canada do take our system for granted in that we can walk into any clinic or emergency room in a hospital and not have to worry about how we are going to pay for our treatment. Critics of this system only hear about the long wait times and the small percentage of patients who may slip through the cracks in the system, but overall it provides every person with the same basic right to be healthy, and if that means higher taxes I will gladly pay my share knowing that the next visit to a doctor or clinic will be without my having to wonder if I will be able to pay for it.

Same system in Belgium (Europe) where I reside (I hope you will kindly pardon my poor english...) No long wait in hospitals that I heard of, except in case of organ transplants depending on donor's availabilities. Employers and employees pay a share of every person's health protection, the amount of the premium depends on the each person's incomes. Visits to the doctor, hospital, X-Rays and blood analyses, most of dental care, prescribed drugs are 75 to 100 free of charge. You can bye an additional private insurance to pay for everything that this "mutualistic" (solidair? socialist, wathever the name) system does not pay for (Television in the room, "confort" drugs, plastic surgery if not the consequence of thrauma or disease)
In the end, everyone feels lucky to "pay" for the people who will require treatments and actually hopes not to be unluky to be one of them. If so, it's unlawfull to be health care denied wathever your condition, smoker, alcoholic or drug addict, from birth to death. Australia (and Cuba...) have also a similar system.. Although theatened by the amount of cost, nor our free social, education and health system have yet collapsed. In time elections, the population tends to favor candidates who protect these issues.
Belgium is part of Nato and have troops in Afghanistan. Like in most european countries the people are still grateful to all the americans soldiers who gave their lives to free Europe from Nazism. My first travel outside Europe was New-York when I was 23. Since, I travelled to USA from New Orleans, to LA, Chicago, Nashville, Needles (CA), Tucson or San Francisco to name a few more than 20 times. I'm a fan of Michael Moore, Woody Allen, Steve Jobs, Keith Olberman, Clint Eastwood, Ben Harper, Bill Watterson and .. Chan Lowe. I also wish every US citizen could be socially and medically protected the same way we are.So should hopefully any person in this world.

There's a movement to radically change California government, by getting rid of career politicians and chopping their salaries in half. A group known as Citizens for California Reform wants to make the California legislature a part time time job, just like it was until 1966.


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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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