“The well-off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst … We cannot be content to see … people victimized with ill-health, when we have the means to help them. In the final analysis, … the agony of the poor unheeded impoverishes the rich…” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
This post contains verbatim correspondence this spring, about the worsening health care crisis, with four state legislators representing Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. Their responses are typical of the obfuscations, distortions, and prevarications that are maintaining the dysfunctional and worsening insurance industry controlled, and managed-for-profit, health care “system” in the USA.
Read ’em and weep. Or, better yet, read and then help make an impact.
It was pronounced dead as a doornail, years ago. But you can’t kill such a common sense, badly needed, life, health, and money saving idea with just propaganda, lies, and back spin.
Universal Single Payer Health Care is back. We need it and we can get it.
In the U.S. Congress, Representative Conyers has introduced H.R. 676 – the Enhanced Medicare for All Bill. And the Miller/Benedict Universal Health Care bill has been introduced as SB51 and AB94 in the Wisconsin State Legislature. (For a memory jog, think of Hwy 51 and I-94)
Here is correspondence on this issue I’ve recently had with State Senators Glenn Grothman and Alberta Darling, and Assemblymen Mark Gottlieb and James Ott who represent much of Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. There has been NO RESPONSE to my queries from U.S. Congressman Sensenbrenner, who owns significant amounts of stock in insurance, pharmaceutical, and health care industries, and receives significant “campaign contributions” from these industries.
A letter from a single typical constituent may provoke a cursory reply from a legislator. But unless there is organized pressure on the issue, the legislator will almost never engage in a discussion with a constituent. The first letter on a given subject from a constituent is like a light tap on the door. The legislator and his staff will invariably ignore it, as well as any follow-ups from that constituent. It is the second letter, and the fifth, etc. that count and get the legislator’s attention. Regardless of how carefully researched and convincing my arguments are, local legislators ignore them unless they are receiving pressure from other constituents. So if you want action, take action yourself.
At the end of this post there is a brief, interesting summary of curious action and inaction taken in the last year by the Ozaukee County Board of Supervisors regarding referenda on Health Care and on War on Terror.
In February, I sent the following letter to Senator Glenn Grothman and Assemblyman Mark Gottlieb :
I am disappointed that you have not sponsored or endorsed AB94/SB51, the bill to address the health care crisis and all it’s associated consequences in Wisconsin by establishing Universal Health Care. If you will not support this bill, what health care proposal do you support?
On Feb 28, 2007, State Senator Grothman’s office wrote:
Dear Mr. Winter,
Thank you for contacting Senator Glenn Grothman’s office to express your support for Senate Bill 51 which would allow for the provision of universal health care in our state. We appreciate you letting us know of your interest in such legislation.
As I researched Senate Bill 51, I noted only 18 out of a possible 132 legislators actually co-sponsored this particular bill. Likely, there is concern regarding the overall cost associated with this particular plan. While there are numerous health care proposals currently under review in the State Legislature, I see Senator Grothman is a supporter of Assembly Bill 47 and Senate Bill 18 which provides for health savings accounts and empowers individuals to determine for themselves the type of health care services they prefer to receive. If you would like more information about these companion bills, please feel free to access the following links:
http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2007/data/AB47hst.html – Assembly Bill 47
http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2007/data/SB18hst.html – Senate Bill 18
Mr. Winter, I hope this information is helpful to you as our state takes a hard look at possible solutions for the health care problems we are currently facing. If either Senator Grothman or I can assist you further, please do not hesitate to contact us. Take care and have a good day!
Jolene R. Churchill, Assistant
Senator Glenn Grothman
20th Senate District
On February 28, 2007, I wrote to Sen. Grothman’s office
Thank you for your prompt reply.
Health savings accounts are a finger bandaid on a massive hemorrhage. They basically give another tax deduction to those individuals wealthy enough to afford them.
Please reconsider your stance regarding health care, Senator Grothman.
The United States has the (by far) most expensive medical care per capita in the world.
But health outcomes (longevity, infant mortality, etc. etc.) in the United States are no longer anywhere near the best in the world.
Every other nation in the industrialized world has universal health care for all persons, EXCEPT the United States of America.
With regards to cost, universal, single payer health care would cost LESS, bottom line, than the total cost of the current patchwork employer based so-called system we now have in the United States. Conversely, each band aid “reform” will merely add more to the actual total cost of the current system.
Please understand that America NEEDS this. We don’t need stories about how WE are to blame for going to the doctor when we aren’t really sick. We don’t need stories that OUR RIGHT to sue when we are victims of medical malpractice has anything to do with the outrageous and out of control costs of medical care. We need elected officials that look out for the people and not for the rich and powerful corporations. People are dying unnecessarily, and families are going bankrupt due to this scandalous hodge-podge “system” that is making the United States a symbol to the world of what NOT to do in the delivery of humane health care.
And the outrageous cost of this health care “system” we have in the U.S. is placing U.S. business at a severe competitive disadvantage, and driving more jobs out of the country.
Please reconsider what is best for ALL the people, and for America. Health savings accounts doesn’t come close, Senator Grothman.
As of May Day, Senator Glenn Grothman has not replied to this Feb. 28 inquiry.
On Feb 28, 2007, Assemblyman Gottlieb wrote:
Thank you for contacting me in support of AB 94. This bill is a reintroduction of AB 807/SB 388 from last session. It creates a new state agency and directs it to begin implementation of universal health care in Wisconsin. The bill does not include an appropriation, and provides no estimate of how much it will cost to provide universal health care to the residents of the state.
We do have health care cost and accessibility issues in Wisconsin. However, we also have one of the lowest rates of uninsured people in the United States. I don’t think a compelling case has been made that we should take the radical step of completely dismantling our current private sector health care system to solve the existing problems.
I have supported, and will continue to support, various solutions that are oriented toward making our health care system more cost-effective and consumer-driven. These include reducing or eliminating insurance mandates that increase costs, full deductibility for Health Savings Accounts, adoption of “HealthCareIT” programs that reduce medical errors and costs through electronic medical records management, initiatives to promote wellness and healthy lifestyles, and increased transparency for cost and quality data. Many of these initiatives, particularly in the area of cost and quality data transparency, are already well underway. I believe that giving consumers greater control over their health care dollars, combined with better information on which to make informed health care choices, is the best way to manage costs and reform our health care system.
I believe that the great majority of Wisconsin residents prefer to fix the problems with our current health care system, rather than to abolish it in favor of a government operated universal care system.
Thanks again for contacting me.
60th Assembly District
On February 28, 2007, I wrote to Rep. Mark Gottlieb:
Thank you for taking the time to reply to my inquiry, Assemblyman Gottlieb.
I want to clarify and perhaps correct two statements you made. No one has advocated that we should “…abolish … our current health care system”, or that ” … we should take the radical step of completely dismantling…” it.
That is an unfair argument, setting up and then attacking a straw man.
It is reasonable to compare, as you did, the rate of uninsured (and please don’t forget the under-insured) people in Wisconsin with the rate elsewhere in the United States. But it is also reasonable to ask our legislators to consider and compare the U.S. (and the Wisconsin) rate, as well as our measurable health outcomes, with those of all the other modern industrialized nations of the world, when thinking about the depth of this U.S. crisis, and considering whether advocating band aids applied to a massive and worsening hemorrhage is really a fraud, and not a remedy. And it is reasonable to ask our legislators to consider the implications of the downward spiraling trends in these appalling comparative statistics.
It is reasonable to inquire into the increasingly adverse effect of the employer based private insurance system on the competitiveness of businesses employing workers here in the United States. And to reflect on how this crazy system forces people to make terrible long-term personal decisions just to maintain needed health insurance coverage.
Finally it is reasonable to ask our legislators to investigate why the shredding patchwork system in the United States costs so much more per capita than the per capita costs of all the other nations in the world which both provide universal health care, and produce better health outcomes. And to respectfully ask that elected officials consider and investigate these things adequately BEFORE they reject, out-of-hand, the concept of universal single payer health care and it’s clearly demonstrated cost efficiency and superiority.
A compelling case has indeed been made for universal single payer health care, Mr. Gottlieb, and if you are truly interested in it, and have difficulty finding a succinct statement of that case, I would be glad to provide you with source materials.
As of May Day, Assemblyman Mark Gottlieb has not responded to this Feb. 28 inquiry.
On March 12, 2007, I sent the following letter to state Senator Alberta Darling
I was disappointed that during your public comments at the recent meeting of the Ozaukee League of Women Voters, you did not once mention that administrative, marketing, and bureaucratic costs of operating our medical care system subject to the private corporate insurance industry is the number one reason that health care in the United States is, by far, the most costly, per capita, in the world, as well as the fact that, unique in the modern world today, one out of six U.S. citizens are uninsured, and many others are woefully underinsured.
That was especially disappointing for three reasons. (The first two, of course, are not disappointing at all, in themselves, but only in the context of your public comments Saturday.)
1. You are certainly a highly intelligent and articulate legislator.
2. You expressed a strong motivation for public service and a primary interest in the health care crisis.
3. Those overlapping, duplicative, conflicting administrative and unnecessary marketing costs, coupled with the obscenely high profit taking and executive compensation packages in the insurance industry are the single most significant factor in driving our health care costs per capita into the stratosphere, while allowing our documented health care outcomes to slip from the best in the world, to somewhere well in the back of the pack of modern industrialized countries. Those costs are between one-fifth and one-fourth of the total costs of providing health care in the U.S. Universal single-payer systems cost between one and three percent.
Those private insurance corporation costs may not be the only factor in the increased cost of health care, but they are certainly the largest factor, and it is puzzling to me why you would not even mention those costs. How can we solve the problem if people studiously ignore the cause?
The United States needs to come to grips with the reality that the ONLY way to reduce the cost of health care to its citizens, while simultaneously increasing the availability of full, proper health care to all citizens, is by instituting universal single-payer health care.
Attached is a WORD Document that contains my two part series on the Health Care Crisis in the U.S. It has been carefully vetted for accuracy, and has run in the Ozaukee News-Graphic, was featured in a national Health Newsletter, and was used on a well known and respected health care web site.
On March 25, I sent the following follow up letter to Senator Alberta Darling:
Senator Darling, I am not a constituent of yours, but I write for the Ozaukee News-Graphic, which is distributed and circulates in Mequon, which is in the 8th Senate District, represented by you.
On March 12 I wrote you by email and inquired about, and commented upon, your expressed position with regards to the Health Care Crisis in America and Wisconsin. I have not yet received a reply to that inquiry and comment.
At this time, I wish to also ask you if you will sponsor or endorse SB51, and if not, what specific health care proposal will you support?
As of May Day, Senator Alberta Darling has failed to reply in any way to these inquiries I sent to her in March regarding her position on the health care crisis and SB51.
On March 29, 2007, I wrote to Representative James Ott:
I write for the Ozaukee News-Graphic which covers the news and circulates in your district. I am doing research and making inquiries about … legislation … currently under consideration in the state legislature… (that) would establish universal health care in Wisconsin.
I am seeking YOUR views and/or positions on (AB94/SB51). Will you sponsor … support … oppose (this bill)?
What alternative do you propose to solve the mounting crisis in health care?
On April 5, James Ott replied:
AB 94. In reading this bill in its present form it sounds like a standard single payer, taxpayer supported type of health care plan. I do not support these types of plans because I believe they do little more than to increase the cost of health care, and not necessarily improve access, as the experience of the Canadian plan has shown.
Sometime in the next two weeks the Republicans in the Assembly will be introducing our own plan, which will likely have numerous provisions that I do favor. This is the plan I will likely be supporting, although I’m sure there will be lengthy discussion and input from individual members.
As more information becomes available on the issues you have inquired about I will be able to give more definitive answers.
On April 5, I replied to Representative James Ott as follows:
Thank you for taking the time to reply, Jim. I can probably only imagine the challenge of responsibly keeping up with everything coming before the state legislature, and with responding to constituent’s inquiries and initiatives.
I must, however, make three brief but important points with regards to your stance on single payer universal health care. I hope you will have the opportunity to consider these points carefully, and perhaps, reply to them.
1. The total costs of health care in the United States are much higher per capita than anywhere else in the modern world, and those costs have been skyrocketing out of sight of the rest – (including Canada, since Canada went single payer universal.) Our nearest competitor on the per capita cost of health care is Switzerland. The costs there, per capita, are 65 percent of the costs in the United States. And they, of course, like the rest of the world, have universal coverage.
2. Objective measures of health care outcomes worldwide USED TO (following WWII) place the United States at or near the top in most categories. That is no longer the case. The United States has slipped, over the last several decades, to at or near the rear of the pack of modern nations, in most all important indicators of health care outcomes. It is possible for some people to obtain health care here that is as good or better than the health care that can be obtained anywhere in the world. But it is frankly a lie to assert or imply that care of that quality is actually obtainable by many, or in fact most, Americans.
3. It is absolutely FALSE to say or imply that we can not afford the cost of universal single payer health care. The fact is that we MUST correctly reform this patchwork, outrageously mal-administered, health care “system” that leaves so many Americans entirely out in the cold, or woefully under-insured, while placing responsible American employers at a severe competitive disadvantage, compared with unscrupulous employers and with the rest of the world economy.
The incontrovertible fact is that the ONLY way to IMPROVE health care outcomes for the United States and to simultaneously REDUCE total per capita costs of health care significantly is by adopting single payer universal health care, as every other modern nation in the world has done. It is really an unconscionable disservice for people who have the intelligence and the responsibility (and who should by now know better) to mislead the people, and the country, by continually, explicitly or implicitly, stating that we cannot improve health care and reduce costs at the same time. It’s not magic. It’s not a radical idea that’s never been tried and tested. It is the ONLY WAY TO DO IT. Let’s please get started, and not stand in the way!
On April 10, Assemblyman James Ott responded as follows:
Based on some of your columns that I have read in the News Graphic I am not surprised that we would disagree on some issues. But that’s what’s great about our system of government-we can disagree, argue and debate, and in the end the citizens get to make the decisions, by who they vote for, and by how well they make their elected officials accountable. And we reach a consensus on the issues peaceably. Health care is obviously a big issue that’s in the forefront right now, and will be for some time to come. A lot of very intelligent people have been working on this issue, and I’m sure if there were a simple solution someone would have found it by now.
I have some very strong opinions on how to best deal with our health care situation, and so do you. I am also open minded enough to listen to other’s ideas, as well as the ideas of my constituents. I am willing to listen to, and take part in the debate that will be ongoing for some time. The problem of the high cost of health care and health insurance did not develop overnight, and as much as some people think they have the only answer there are other very knowledgeable people who would disagree.
On April 11, Clyde Winter replied to Rep. Jim Ott’s response as follows:
Thank you for replying to my inquiry and comments sent you on April 5 regarding the health care crisis.
I wish you had commented on the three important points I raised in my letter. Your reply expressed generalities and, frankly, grammar school platitudes about disagreement in “our system of government”. You said “health care is obviously a big issue”, but you said nothing specific about those three critically important points at the heart of the issue, or specifically how you believe the issue and the problems should be resolved, other than to say, as you did on April 5, that “the Republicans” will be introducing a plan, and that you will likely be supporting that plan.
It is a real sign of dysfunctional partisan politics when such a vitally important issue cannot be discussed on its own merits, and open discussion is instead deferred due to loyalty to a political party.
You said that you will be able to give more definitive answers to my inquiries “as more information becomes available”.
Mr. Ott, what specific sources will provide you with that information?
On Apr 11, 2007, at 2:04 PM, Jim Ott wrote:
I’m not sure what you mean when you say open discussion is “deferred due to loyalty to a political party.” As I mentioned in one of my previous notes, I do not favor single payer, government supported universal health insurance plans. That is just the sort of a plan you are pushing. The fact that I don’t favor these sorts of plans has nothing to do with my political party-it’s the fact that I believe the answer to the high cost of health insurance and its unavailability to some is to work to lower the cost of health care. I believe single payer type systems can actually increase the cost of health care, and I am not very impressed with the results of these systems in the countries that are using them. There are other plans that will be presented in the near future, that I believe may do a much better job of addressing the issue. I would like to have the opportunity to thoroughly study all the plans that are put forth. What’s wrong with that?
As far as having open discussion, the issue of health care will be debated in various committee hearings and in the Assembly and Senate. The committee hearings will be open to the public, and will also accept public comment. I realize you want answers right now, but in my opinion important issues deserve a full and extended discussion.
On April 11, I replied to Jim Ott as follows:
Thank you for continuing this important dialogue, Representative Ott.
In your reply, you made the specific point that you “believe the answer to the high cost of health insurance and its unavailability to some is to work to lower the cost of health care.” Are you willing to seriously consider the possibility that your belief is not true?
1. Perhaps the answer to the “high cost of health insurance” is to reduce the cost of the insurance, not the care. Why not look first and directly at that side of the equation?
2. The tragic “unavailability” of timely, effective, and proper health care for many Americans will not be answered by reducing the cost of health care. But it would be answered by eliminating exclusionary profit-making loopholes in health care coverage, such as exclusions of certain medically indicated procedures and treatments, exclusions of pre-existing conditions, loss of coverage due to change in employment or marital status, bankruptcy proceedings or management decisions of an employer, and on and on. Doesn’t that seem more logical?
You also said that you “believe single payer type systems can actually increase the cost of health care”. Can you cite ANY credible evidence for this belief? Can you name even ONE country in the modern world which has single payer universal health care, and which has per capita total costs of health care that even approach the costs that we suffer under here in the United States?
As of May Day, Representative Jim Ott has not responded to my April 11 reply.
Last year, our Ozaukee County Supervisors put a referendum question on the ballot asking voters whether we supported a “…military … war on terror … throughout the world … until … organized terrorism is eliminated and the people of all nations are ensured of their safety …”. But a little later, the same Board of Supervisors refused to put a referendum question on the same general election ballot asking whether voters supported urging the state legislature to study ways to reduce the cost of health care 15 percent in Wisconsin, and to provide universal health care to all residents. The reasons given for refusing to put the health care question on the ballot were reported to include that (1) we should not fight battles that we can’t win (!), and that (2) that question was properly a local, not a state issue (?), and that (3) everyone would vote in favor of that question, so it would be a waste of time and money to put it on the ballot (!?!).