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The Valley Reporter
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What contributes to health care costs

To read last week's editorial and other "letters" (July 23, 2009) one would believe that our present problems with our health care system are all caused by those nasty, greedy money-grubbing pharmaceutical and insurance conglomerates. What they are thinking, really, is "my health insurance is too expensive and I want a government-run program that covers everyone at less cost."

Our medical technology is world renown. Foreign dignitaries come here for treatment of difficult cases and our research and development has produced new diagnostic methods and machines that are used all over the world. But, yes, our costs are indeed in need of reduction. Before the House passed their 1,100-page bill without reading it, I asked Representative Peter Welch his opinion about two items that contribute to costs.

1) Hospitals must treat all who show up at their emergency rooms including illegal aliens (by some estimates to be 12 to 15 million, most of whom can't pay). Hospitals, in order to pay their bills, must make a profit; therefore, their rates increase.

2) <MI>The Valley Reporter<D> editorial complains about contributions influencing health care legislation. Well, wake up and smell the roses; that is (sadly) the way our current government operates. Example, the Trial Lawyers Association is a big contributor to the Democrats who want to preserve their malpractice income. Physicians carry insurance protection with some premiums as high as $100,000 per year. In fact, not long ago a West Virginia medical group threatened to go "on strike" if something wasn't done. Now, again this situation contributes to our medical costs. I asked if there was any attempt made to restrict frivolous lawsuits and put a cap on the pain and suffering portion of out-of-control jury verdicts, in order to reduce the cost of our medical insurance.

I did get a response from Peter Welch, not like his predecessor Bernie Sanders. He said that he was glad that I had contacted him with "my opposition to a universal health care system." He also included the usual platitudes about "passing legislation that makes health care affordable and accessible to everyone." Wow!! What a non-answer. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. So much for constituent input to our representative.

I mention the above two items contributing to cost, because one hears nothing about them in the media and gets nothing from our member of Congress.

What we must have in this health plan remake is insurance competition. Not a government tax-supported plan versus a private one, because the government plan can set rates low enough to put the other one out of business and shift the costs indirectly through taxes back to us. Besides, has there ever been a government-run program that did what it was supposed to do without thriving on waste, fraud and abuse? The postal service? Wrong. Social Security? Congress stole all the money to pay for their social programs and pork and left an IOU for other generations to pay. Medicare, Medicaid? Out-of-control unfunded mandates, including states. No, government has an entirely different responsibility. They should set up the rules, monitor them and then get out of the way for the private sector to compete. That is the only way to achieve reasonable health care costs.

As demonstrated by the government-run health care programs in the U.K. and Canada, there is never enough money to satisfy the needs, health care rationing is rampant and expenditures on new infrastructure and technologies decline. This is what is called a "single payer system" and has been proven to be impossible to manage by those countries, so why do legislators who know this still insist? Ask them and see what kind of non-answer you get.

Potter lives in Waitsfield.

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