Letters to the Editor
From Letters to the Editor, The Tennessean (Nashville), 10/21/03
U.S. health-care system allows people to die
As Dr. Charles Eckstein (”We can do better than British and Canadians on health care”) advised in his Oct. 17 Nashville Eye column, I went to the American Medical Association’s Web site and reviewed its plan for health insurance reform. What I found there was a plan to ”induce most people to purchase health insurance” by providing tax credits.
To its credit, the AMA proposal does attempt to break the anachronistic link between employment and health insurance, but it leaves individuals to find their own way in a bewildering health insurance marketplace.
The AMA plan fatally assumes that people will choose to buy health insurance, whether they are employed or not, because the tax system will refund part or all of what they pay. The document recognizes the unfair burden of the current system on the poor, but it fails to recognize the depth of poverty and the irrelevance of the tax system to daily decisions about whether to pay for food, rent or medicine.
Dr. Eckstein pulls out the tired canard of ”socialized medicine,” saying Canadians are ”suffering and dying on waiting lists.” Sadly, the free-market arrangements that dominate health care in the U.S. have left Americans to suffer and die because they were uninsured and too poor to even get on the waiting lists. This is a moral outrage. We clearly must arrange our affairs so that health care is distributed equitably.
A straightforward way to health-care equity was proposed in August by 8,000 (not ”a few,” as Dr. Eckstein wrote) physicians. In the proposal, everyone pays according to his means through progressive taxation, everyone has the same insurance, and everyone has equal access to care.
It’s a second opinion that’s worth a look, at www.pnhp.org.
National Health Care for the Homeless Council