A Letter From Colin Raitiere

Dear people,

I have been practicing Family Medicine in the Danville area for nearly 25 years. Never before have I seen so many people without health insurance or choosing to defer tests or medications due to concerns about cost. All Americans should have access to comprehensive health care, like most other people in the developed world.

A Harvard study several months ago found that fully one HALF of all US bankruptcies (2,000,000 people) were due to medical bills. Three quarters of those bankrupted by illness HAD INSURANCE when they got sick. And then, Congress overwhelmingly approved a major overhaul of bankruptcy laws that would make it more difficult to for people facing bankruptcy to get back on their feet.

Due to the cost of health care, most cars manufactured in North America are now made in Ontario, Canada rather than in Michigan. It seems that GM, Ford and Daimler-Chrysler are moving their manufacturing facilities to Canada as health care costs for manufacturers average $800 per per employee per year in Canada and $6,500 in the US, with $1,500 of that cost passed on to you when you buy an American car.

In 2003 wait times for elective surgery in Canada had fallen to just over 4 weeks (about the same as in US) and are continuing to decrease with the encouragement of the current Canadian Administration. The Canadian figures include ALL Canadian citizens while in the US wait times don’t include the un-insured and under-insured who simply choose not to have elective surgery.

Not only do 39,000,000 Americans NOT have health insurance, but of those who do, many are facing increasing co-pays and deductibles. Those who lose their jobs due to illness are often unable to pay high COBRA premiums eventually facing medical bills that are simply un-payable. Congress, unable to address the crisis of health care costs through both Democratic and Republican Administrations, has chosen to compound the issue by punishing workers who are forced into bankruptcy by illness.

The US has the most expensive health care system in the world and yet health care is in-accessible to a large number of Americans and our system is no longer the best. Americans have a lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality rate than many other developed countries. Infant mortality in America is WORSE than most European countries and equal to infant mortality in Cuba and South Korea.

One answer is National Health Insurance (NHI). The plan proposed by Physicians for A National Health Plan (available at www.physiciansproposal.org) would de-link coverage from employment, cover all medically necessary care without deductibles and co-payments, and cover ALL Americans. Decreased administrative costs would more than cover comprehensive care without an increase in overall health care costs (private insurers use 13.6% of premiums for overhead while both Medicare and the Canadian National Health Insurance program require less than 3%). Providing National Health Insurance would be good for business. Employer health care expenses would decrease, providing an opportunity for increased profit and increased employee compensation.

To consider National Health Insurance will require our elected officials to resist influence from industries that profit from health care and to be open-minded, courageous and innovative, characteristics often lacking in representatives from either party. National Health Insurance will become an idea more acceptable to Congress only when large corporate employers like GM, GE or IBM began complaining about health care costs and therefore pressuring government for relief. That time may be coming.

If you share my concerns, consider reviewing the PNHP proposal (call me if you can’t get on the internet and want a copy), and certainly let your representatives know how you feel.

Colin Raitiere