Re "Healthcare rationing: Real scary," Opinion, Aug. 16
There are 1,300 insurance companies in the U.S., according to Newt Gingrich, all intent on making a profit with healthcare. They claim to do a better job because private industry works better than government programs.
Why are they afraid of a government option then? Don't they believe in competition anymore? A little competition should force insurance companies to do better.
And if they disappear, I don't think we'll miss them. How many people on Medicare or Medicaid miss them?
San Luis Obispo
In the late '50s, I played football with Gingrich. As military dependent kids in Germany, the former speaker of the House and I were teammates at Stuttgart American High School. If either of us was ever injured, we'd get immediate and free medical care from military health providers. In fact, all of our medical and dental needs were taken care of by the military healthcare system.
I believe Gingrich's article is disingenuous because he himself benefited from a government-paid healthcare system in his childhood and, of course, later when he became a congressman. Unfortunately, his public attacks against President Obama's approach to healthcare reform never mention this.
The article by Gingrich misses the point.
Corporate models of competition are not the answer to reform. Unlike business, healthcare is a public-health and safety issue. Just as the police department cannot refuse to help me because I cannot afford to pay for safety and the fire department cannot refuse to help me because my house had a prior fire, healthcare should not be based on private corporate interests and profit.
Like the fire and police departments, healthcare should be taxpayer-supported and equal (as much as possible) for all Americans.
What's "real scary" about the article is how wrong Gingrich can be. I don't know where he has been lately, but the health insurance companies ration care right now with no oversight.
Want a liver transplant? Sorry, that is experimental. Want that new cancer treatment? Sorry, also experimental. Are you costing the insurance company too much money? So sorry, you forgot to tell us you had a high blood pressure reading years ago. Or we deny payment for the surgery we authorized last month after you have been paying us for 30 years.
I worked in healthcare for 10 years and know how difficult the current system is for doctors, hospitals and patients. We now have a chance for real reform, not to just put Band-Aids on the current system, as proposed in the article.
I did a double-take reading Gingrich's article warning against healthcare rationing. He first argues that the current plans to reform healthcare will give the government unprecedented and unaccountable control over your healthcare, and then goes on to argue that proposed reforms could lead to cuts in Medicare benefits. The last I checked, Medicare is itself a government program that was passed despite the same arguments against expanding the role of government.
If Gingrich believes that government control is a threat to individual freedom, then why is he defending Medicare?
I wish Gingrich would explain why he thinks I have less freedom with my Medicare and more freedom with my private dental insurance plan.
Based on my experience, just the opposite is true. But then I'm basing my judgment on my own experience in the real world, and Gingrich is mouthing the platitudes of a political ideology.
I have practiced medicine for over three decades, caring for children with catastrophic medical conditions. I have been heartened by remarkable discoveries and innovations and saddened by the loss of public trust in medicine as a profession. I welcome a vigorous debate about national healthcare reform.
Sadly, there's nothing new in Gingrich's attacks on healthcare reform. There is now a possibility for progress and change. Yet opponents like Gingrich would rather fight the same old partisan political battles.
Gingrich says the crucial test of any reform package is whether it will "empower individuals or impose on them." I agree, but let's have a reality check here also. Failure to reform healthcare has imposed huge financial burdens on every U.S. taxpayer. We're now on the verge of substantial reform. And it's legitimate to raise questions about where we're headed. But beware of the attempts to derail progress with scare tactics, personal attacks and bogus claims. Our nation has backed away from reform before, and our system is worse for it.
I'll tell you what the truly scary option is: It's doing nothing.
The writer is the dean of the school of medicine at Stanford University.