Monday, August 10, 2009

A Letter to Me

My Congressman, Mr. Wally Herger replied to my recent email to his office. In that email I had informed him that I was interested in seeing him support single payer health care or an extension of the very successful Medicare program.

Here is his reply and my comments.

"Thank you for contacting me regarding the health care system in the United States. I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts on this important issue.

With health care costs rapidly rising and approximately 45 million Americans lacking health insurance, it is clear that our nation's health system is in need of major reforms. However, I would respectfully suggest that a "single payer" or "universal Medicare" model is not the best way to fix what is wrong with health care in America. I believe most Americans want decisions about their medical care to be made by their physician, not by a distant federal bureaucracy that is unfamiliar with their personal situation.
In other countries that have adopted a single-payer system, such as Canada, people face long waiting lists for medical care and talented physicians are leaving the program.

Notice that Wally repeats lies that are a standard part of the Republican assault on health care. I wouldn't say that he lies, but I would say that he doesn't check his facts very well. Perhaps he is an elder and should consider retirement? Anyway…

One, I use Medicare and decisions about my medical care are made by my doctor and myself. A doctor that I freely chose. There is not even a hint of a 'distant federal bureaucracy' involved in my health care.

Two, Other countries that have adopted a single payer system do not have the problems that Mr. Herger noted. He is simply repeating a lie without even checking to see if anything he says is accurate. It isn't.

The potential problems with a government-run health system can also be seen here in California with the Medi-Cal program, where low-income individuals have nominal coverage but often can't get the care they need. Health care providers often refuse to accept Medi-Cal patients because the program pays too little to cover the cost of providing services, while some rural hospitals that do treat Medi-Cal beneficiaries are losing so much money that they may be forced to close their doors altogether.

Three, The Medi-Cal problems are not in any way connected to Medicare. Both are government run systems, but one is run by a state that can't handle any of its problems. They are simply apples and oranges. I have no idea as to why Mr. Herger inserted this little bit of disinformation except for the possibility he wished to misinform. Possible?

Rather than creating a single-payer system, I believe Congress should look for ways to leverage competition and market forces to lower the cost of health care. Today, it is very difficult for Americans to find reliable cost and quality information about health care providers. We need to change this, in part through adoption of health information technology, which may itself be able to save over $100 billion per year to the system. And I believe we need to encourage state governments to develop innovative solutions to the problem of covering the uninsured.

Four, "…leverage competition and market forces…" That's exactly what we've been dealing with for the past 40+ years. That's why we're in the trouble we are in. Private health care providers make the medical decisions and not doctors. Disgusting. Thousands of people are forced out of private plans when it appears that they might actually be sick. Disgusting. Why do we have the highest health care costs in the whole world if competition and market forces are at play and have been for those 40+ years? Disgusting.

Finally, I believe Congress should reform the tax code to make it easier for individuals to obtain health insurance when their employers do not provide it. Almost everyone agrees that the current system, under which employer-provided health insurance is tax-free but individuals who purchase their own insurance must do so with post-tax dollars, is fundamentally unfair, although there is less agreement on the best way to fix it. As the Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, I will keep your views in mind as I continue working for reforms that improve the quality, affordability, and accessibility of health care.

Five, 'reform the tax code' is pie in the sky and Mr. Herger knows it. I want health care fixed for all Americans and I want it now, not in the distant future.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Please don't hesitate to contact me in the future regarding this or any other federal issue important to you. In addition, I would like to invite you to visit my website at where you can find additional information on my position on a variety of issues and sign up for occasional e-mail updates on the federal issues important to you.


  1. It's so obvious that many members of Congress do not have the best interests of citizens in mind (Or hearts, if they even have one), and they will continue to distort facts as they seem to enjoy doing on important issues.

  2. The best is the enemy of the good. You can sit around till you're dead waiting for "the best" system possible, when a "good enough" system is right at hand. Jeesh!