(from Des Moines Register -- published on December 6, 2005)

Here’s news for anyone who opposes a taxpayer-financed system of health care in the United States: The country already has one. More than one. Public dollars subsidize health care at every turn.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the government picks up nearly 44 percent of the cost of health care in the United States. Medicare, for seniors and the disabled; Medicaid, for the poor; and health insurance for veterans are all government systems of care. All are funded with taxpayer dollars.

Plus, public employees’ health insurance is at least partially subsidized with tax dollars. In the Des Moines schools, for example, tax dollars paid $36.2 million for workers' health care last fiscal year, the equivalent of salaries alone for about 840 teachers.

Residents of Des Moines pay more than $1,000 a month to provide family health care for each of their part-time City Council members. The state of Iowa will spend $245 million in 2006 on medical care for state workers. That doesn't even include state troopers or faculty and professional staff at the three state universities. At Iowa State University, for example, the projected medical and dental cost in 2006 is $43 million.

Everyone from the city engineer to members of Congress gets a little help from the taxpayer.

Taxpayers also pay, in a sense, to help employers pay for health insurance. Employer contributions for medical care and medical-insurance premiums are excluded from taxes. That was a loss of revenue for the federal government that totaled more than $120 billion in fiscal year 2005 — more than 20 times Iowa's $4.9 billion state budget.

So people may say they oppose a tax-financed system of health care for everyone, but the country already pays part of the bill for nearly everyone, at least indirectly.

That's one reason why no one should resent people who receive direct taxpayer-funded care, from the federal-state Medicaid program or Iowa's HAWK-I, the state program for kids in low- to moderate-income families.

The current system isn’t fair, though. Uninsured workers pay taxes to fund others’ care, but have none for themselves.

Non-veterans can’t visit the veterans hospital their tax dollars pay for, even if it's right down the street and provides the best care. Working Americans fund the Medicare system, which pays for an elderly person’s knee surgery. That same taxpayer may not be able to afford his own knee surgery.

The system is inefficient, too. Thousands of private insurance plans add up to a tangle of red tape and administrative waste — dollars not spent directly on care. A Harvard study found bureaucracy accounted for more than 30 percent of total health-care spending in 1999.

Since the government is already involved with nearly everyone's health care, why not allow everyone to buy into a uniform government program such as Medicare? Then public dollars would be spent more wisely. Fewer people would be employed to push papers. If Medicare were reformed to be more comprehensive and add a government drug benefit, the coverage could be top notch.

Bullet Points for Legislators

  • Single Payer saves money.  For the past 20 years, states have commissioned studies on different types of health care systems.   In EVERY case, single payer was shown to be the only way to cover everyone and the only system that saved money and controlled costs.

  • Publicly financed does not mean government run health care.  YOU have publicly finance health coverage, but the government does not make decisions regarding your health care.

  • Cost conscious patients often don't get the care they need.   Most decisions are made by the doctor in concert with the patient, but the patient relies on the doctor's knowledge to make a decision.  Expensive tests and treatments cannot be ordered by the patient, only the doctor.

  • Lifestyle choices are not what is fueling high costs in health care.   The United States ranks low in general health indicators, but high in good health habits.  We smoke less, drink less and consume less animal fat that many other countries with better health indicators and much lower health care costs.

  • Businesses can accurately determine their health care costs and are not subject to unanticipated large premium increases.

  • It will reduce labor costs due to a more efficient way of financing health care, eliminating much wasteful administration.

  • Workers' Compensation costs will be reduced, likely by half, due to the fact that everyone has health coverage and there is no need for the medical portion.

  • It reduces the need for part time employees and provides easier recruiting.  There are no pre-existing conditions or Cobra issues.

  • Eliminates the oversight of health benefits and bargaining health coverage with employees.

  • It creates healthier personnel and more stable employees, reduces absenteeism and eliminates employer health coverage complaints.

  • It reduces employee health related debt and personal bankruptcies.

  • It frees up family income that can be spent on other goods and services, thus stimulating the economy.

Tips for Writing Letters to Editor

Follow guidelines for your local paper (word count, submission instructions, etc.)

Frame your letter in relation to a recent news item Use state specific data whenever possible (let us know if you need help finding some!)

Address counter arguments

Be aware of your audience and emphasize how Medicare for All is good for ALL residents of the state

Criticize other positions, not people Include your credentials (especially if you work in the healthcare field)

Avoid jargon and abbreviations

Don’t overload on statistics and minor details

Cover only one or two points in a single letter

Avoid rambling and vagueness


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