Publication:Johnson City Press; Date:Jul 12, 2009; Section:Opinion; Page Number:2B

U.S. health care system is held hostage to for-profit corporations

    Guess what — insurance companies are not in the business of providing health care. Their business is making money for their shareholders and top executives. What they do is administer payment for health care — a task that governments do, too, but governments do it without sucking out multi-billions of dollars in profit and waste due to excessive paperwork.

    Insurance companies (and the legislators they have bought and paid for) think they’ll scare us by asking, “Do you want a government bureaucrat making decisions about hour health care?”

    Please, tell me how having an insurance company bureaucrat making the decisions is one bit better.

    Another bogus argument is that care will be “rationed.” Isn’t it obvious that it is rationed right now, on the basis of insurance coverage? The uninsured man who knows he can’t afford leukemia treatment decides to just go home and die.

    They also say we will suffer long waits for treatment. How about 14 years for an MRI? That’s how long I waited while I was a part-time worker with no insurance.

    No matter how smart, caring and hardworking our doctors and nurses are, I can’t see how the U.S. will ever have a health care system that is rational, efficient, just, compassionate or effective as long as for-profit corporations hold it hostage. If the Democrats’ “public option” insurance proposal squeezes insurance company profits — or perhaps puts them out of business — I’ll shed no tears.

    In poll after poll, the majority supports the inclusion of government in managing health care. Will our legislators give us what we want and need? Or will they make protection of the insurance industry their priority?



Insurance domination

    Three recent insurance related articles have troubled me. One described Unicoi County’s insurance options for 2010: to stay with United at a 53 percent increase or change to BlueCross and BlueShield with a lesser but still hefty increase. The county settled with BC/BS for “only” a 34 percent increase with greater employee responsibility. A third article implied that predicted nationwide increases would be much higher were it not for current focus and public pressure on the industry.

    I’ve tried to stay informed, and I’ve learned that the insurance industry consumes one-third of every health care dollar — on their own bureaucracy, lobbying and resisting payout. They cherrypick clients, trying to cover the healthiest, which basically defeats the sharedrisk principle of insurance. A public system, on the other hand, would not preclude competition and private incentive in the provision of services.

    A future system could include means testing, co-payments and deductibles, but what we don’t need is a parasitic insurance industry in the middle of it. Sorting demographics and segmenting markets serves insurance companies richly, but such tactics leave too many of us with no recourse but the emergency room and, at the no longer rare extreme, bankruptcy due to illness. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and Congressman Phil Roe seem poised to resist a public option and to allow the entrenched for-profits continued domination of the system. Seventy-two percent of us, as per recent CBS polling, have said they’re wrong.

    Unicoi County’s predicament is a bellwether for all of us. If we’re smart, even those of us fortunate enough to have insurance will question the security of our current level and cost of coverage. Our voices, one by one, can be stronger than any lobby, and the current crisis calls for us to speak up. Or they will win once again.



Energy and taxes

    I want to say, after much thought (study) I have concluded the study the city of Johnson City wants to do about the wind turbines installed on Buffalo Mountain would not produce near as much electricity as it would if they installed it on top of the Municipal and Safety Building on Main Street. I’m sure there is enough “hot air” coming out of that building to run it 24/7/365.

    In case the city does not know it — downtown Johnson City died years ago, so stop throwing money down a rat hole and reduce the property taxes now. You are killing me and all property owners with your almost yearly tax increases.


Johnson City

Stimulus ‘waste?’

    I was amused by the article in the paper July 5 claiming that many people are upset about the “waste” of money generated by the signs that are being displayed at project sites that are being funded by the federal stimulus plan.

    Obviously, these fiscally frugal folks feel the people employed in the businesses of designing, manufacturing and installing signs do not need economic stimulus as badly as the rest of us. SANDRA GARRETT Elizabethton

Thanks to firefighters

    We would like to thank the Tennessee Professional Firefighters Association for the workshop they provided in June for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The information it provided the community is vital.

    The group also gave out visual smoke alarms to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Each alarm has a $100 value and each family in need can receive two alarms.

    Thanks so much to the Tennessee Professional Firefighters Association for their immeasurable gift of time, talent and safety education. JESSICA HARRISON Program Director Communication Center for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing Johnson City

Witten a role model

    On June 27, I spent the day at the Jason Witten football camp. There was little doubt that Jason was the CEO of the event. The interaction of the Ryder-Witten clan, however, was a pleasure to observe. Each family member played an important role in the success of the event.

    Jason hosted a mini motivational and leadership seminar during lunch. His presentation was impressive. A large number of his volunteer coaches participated. I feel sure they will return to their full-time occupations with a very positive attitude and renewed energy to accomplish their respective goals and responsibilities.

    I was personally privileged to watch Scott (Ryder), Ryan, Shaun and Jason (Witten) grown from young men to productive and well-grounded adults. I am convinced their good character is directly related with the way they were raised.

    With all the bad actors in the NFL, Jason is proof that good guys can also finish first.

    Jason, you are a credit to your profession. East Tennessee is blessed to have you as a favorite son. JACK COLE Elizabethton