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Letter of the Week: What Do We Have To Lose On Health Care? 

Rethinking health care.

This week's letter comes from Elsan Zimmerly who makes a compelling case for rethinking health care, a topic that's gotten a lot of attention and not enough intelligent discussion recently. Thanks for your well written and researched letter Elsan. You can pick up your winner's prize, a bag of Strictly Organic coffee, at our office, 704 NW Georgia, anytime this week.

What do Congressional opponents of a public health care option have in common? My guess is they didn't go to kindergarten - they never learned to share. They have something they value and covet but won't share. Sounds selfish. Send them all back to kindergarten.

Okay, health care is a serious subject. What is stunning in this whole debate is that not only Congress enjoys government-subsidized health care, many of the already insured are government employees who also have the same plan as Congress. Yes, the federal government is the largest employer in the US. The largest employer by far. Total the remaining top ten employers and the feds are still #1.

Federal employees worldwide total about 6 million people. Add Medicare, Medicaid, retirees, the Veterans Administration, Indian Health Services, State government employees, local government employees and you wind up with a whopping 100 million people. That's a chunk of our population that right now enjoys a US government health care plan. Stunning! Is it such a stretch to include the remainder of Americans?

We agree the status quo cannot continue. It's destroying Americans at a rapid pace. More than 1/2 of all bankruptcies are due to medical expenses and this includes people with insurance believing they were covered. Emergency rooms are consistently overflowing with patients who should be in a family doctor's office. Doctors are dissatisfied with the treatment demanded of them by insurance companies. People are disgusted with the care they receive or rather don't receive. When dealing with a critical illness such as cancer, stroke, heart attack - the most stressful time in life - people find themselves in the deplorable situation of arguing and defending necessary treatments with a clerk in an insurance company. A person trained and compensated for the greatest number of denials issued.

The US Federal Employee health care program includes private insurance plans that are government administered, sponsored and subsidized. People cannot be dropped anytime for anything. The government pays about 75% of each employee's premium. It's a program that began in 1960 and is the largest employer-sponsored group health insurance program in the world. It works. Not perfectly but show me perfect in this world.

Much criticism hovers around fear that the public option is socialized medicine. Socialized medicine means doctors and hospitals work for the government. The public option is not socialized medicine. The US does, in fact, have several socialized medicine programs - the Veterans Administration, Armed Services and Public Health Service.

The Canadian health care system is often used as an example of socialized medicine. Simply, untrue. It is not socialized medicine. It is socialized health insurance. Similar to our Medicare, the Canadian government pays for medical care provided by the private sector, mostly not-for-profit. Being not-for-profit is a major distinction and displays a higher road taken. Greed drives our health care system. Caring for and healing the ill, the sick, the weak, the elderly for a huge profit, for the benefit of shareholders' wealth - what kind of a society allows and encourages such a system?

The health insurance program in place that 100 million Americans, including Congress, benefit from is a system that the rest of Americans should have and can have. The ball is in our court. We asked for it during the 2000 campaign. Now, let's demand it.

Elsan Zimmerly, Redmond

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