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Letters to the Editor: It’s a pandemic. Give California single-payer healthcare

Hospital workers wear masks and gowns.
Healthcare workers staff the ICU at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital on Dec. 31. Democrats in the state Legislature are proposing universal, single-payer healthcare for California.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: As the COVID-19 pandemic rages, the homeless population expands, our prolonged drought continues and, now, with inflation raising its frightful head, “CalCare” may soon offer all California residents the affordable, comprehensive healthcare that those in other wealthy countries enjoy. (“California Democrats are trying again for universal healthcare. It’s a debate well worth having,” column, Jan. 10)

This legislation to establish CalCare comes at a time of great political turmoil. But with the corporate takeover of healthcare, bringing structural inefficiencies and excess profits, we have reached a breaking point. The shortages in healthcare workers from burnout and early retirement must be considered. The delays and difficulties in getting appointments are intolerable.

CalCare would redistribute the monies taken from the public coffers to fund the health services we all expect and deserve. The new taxes would be affordable compared to exorbitant insurance premiums and ever-increasing co-pays and deductibles.

For this miracle to happen, members of the state Legislature must sacrifice campaign donations to truly serve the public.

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Jerome P. Helman, M.D., Venice

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To the editor: I respectfully disagree with Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), the proponent of the single-payer healthcare bill. Hospital costs drive insurance charge increases. Outpatient care and physician and provider fees make up a small portion of total healthcare expenditures.

More than half of what it costs for hospitals to provide care is directly related to labor (salaries, taxes and benefits). About half of most major hospitals’ beds are typically filled with Medicare patients, even though Medicare beneficiaries make up only 12% of the population. What Medicare pays for care barely covers the cost of services.

Medicaid pays less than the cost of services. Medi-Cal, the state Medicaid-funded program for low-income individuals, “covers” 35% of the California population.

In the airline industry, there is little or no profit in coach. Similarly, hospitals need the private payer so they can stay afloat. They cannot pay their staff with Medicare, Medicaid and HMO contracts alone.

If there was single payer for all at Medi-Cal reimbursement rates, almost every hospital in California would go bankrupt. The alternative would be to increase Medi-Cal reimbursement by at least 30%. That would require massive taxation, something our Legislature will never do.

Howard C. Mandel, M.D., Los Angeles

The writer is president of the L.A. City Health Commission.

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To the editor: I’m currently “taxed” $6,000 a year for the “privilege” of having health insurance through my employer for my family. If the state can tax me less than that for my “right” to healthcare, then I’m all in.

Eric Jost, Sierra Madre

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To the editor: I would love to have all my medical and dental expenses paid by the state of California, but this legislation is much too unfair to doctors and dentists.

Why? Because they pay high rents for offices in what is still a capitalist economy in addition to staff salaries and expensive equipment like X-ray machines.

Since our state taxes are already high, how does it help us to do away with other types of insurance while paying even higher taxes? Someday this may work, but none of us is ready for it now.

Lynne Shapiro, Marina del Rey


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