From the Editorial Advisory Board: Health care

This week’s topic: What do you think of the U.S. health-care system and how would you change it to make it better?


The “U.S. health-care system” is a misnomer; the system does not care about the health of the individuals within it. For being more passionate about the future (that is, for teaching children) than savings, I bear the burden of this broken system. Under the Affordable Care Act, I am able to afford the most minuscule of health “coverage.” However, when all I can afford is poor insurance, I change insurance plans as soon as I can afford something better. All this changing of insurance forces me to change doctors. No doctor knows me well because I can’t afford to keep a doctor. That’s not health care.

We need single-payer health care. Large-scale government funding gets things done, like putting a person on the moon or overthrowing a dictator or foreign government. Every habitable continent in the world has countries with successful universal health care. Many of these countries are capitalist countries like the U.S.

No, not entirely like the U.S. — they’re not scared of utilizing effective socialist policies. The U.S. has a history of fearing socialism to the point of excusing violence in order to quell people helping each other. Socialism isn’t a threat to any person; it’s a threat to the U.S.’s version of capitalism. But community health is more important than money. The U.S. needs to swallow its pride and provide a service for all its population.

Cha Cha Spinrad,,


My grandfather was a country doctor in the state of Washington. When people didn’t have money to pay for his services, they gave him a chicken, or a few pounds of peas. My doctors in Boulder, too, sent us a bill and we paid it. We paid for insurance to make sure that we didn’t go broke when we had a serious illness or injury.

Sometime in the 1980s or ’90s, I became aware of some organizations that went by initials — HMOs and PPOs, mostly. They decided which doctors we could go to, and made rules that we had to have a recommendation to see a specialist, and which specialist. I could never figure out what these organizations were for, but it seems that costs just kept going up.

I grew up a confirmed capitalist — private enterprise is always better and more efficient than government. But as health care has gotten more and more complex, and seemingly not better, I wonder. I am now old enough to be enrolled in Medicare. I pay a ridiculously low amount of money ($104 a month), and go to the doctor, who treats me as a regular person. I confess that I am preternaturally healthy, but for now, this seems to work. I am losing my fear of government inefficiency, especially as it relates to health care. Wouldn’t it be great if Republicans join John McCain and work with the Democrats to fix Obamacare?

Rett Ertl,


Twelve years ago, I found a lump the size of a kernel of corn in my right breast. I had no known family history of breast cancer and I was in my early 30s yet a feeling deep inside me was contradicting the statistical improbability of my having cancer.

It took seeing four different practitioners to find one willing to biopsy it and even after excising the mass, my surgeon told me I had nothing to worry about. Two days later I got an apologetic phone call from him explaining that the tumor was malignant and aggressive. I became an insurance company’s nightmare: expensive tests, a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgeries, eight rounds of chemotherapy, treatments for complications and hormone therapy. I had to change my health plan because I was bumping up against the lifetime maximum coverage limit. Fortunately, I had access to employer-sponsored insurance and was not subject to pre-existing condition clauses.

Until my diagnosis I was a healthy person who brought down the risk profile of a pool. Before Obamacare I was paranoid of becoming unemployed. Republicans are right, the ACA is flawed, but they’re wrong about the direction reform is needed. No one should be denied affordable insurance coverage because of their income, age or health history. I liked Germany’s version of universal health care that allowed me to purchase private insurance but doesn’t deny others quality services. Multi-payer systems can coexist. We can make improvements from there.

Michelle Estrella,,


Now that health-care is perceived by many to be a right, can food be far behind? Government-mandated FoodCare, if administered like ObamaCare, would force many of us to spend $1,000 or so each month on a list of groceries the government provided, which includes items we don’t want and will never eat. Oh, and some people get it for free.

Seventeen years ago, the company I worked for sent me to New York to attend a two-day seminar on how the internet was going to completely revolutionize health care, bringing costs down. Filled with experts and panel discussions moderated by Charlie Rose, it became obvious over the course of the two days that revolutionizing health care would take more than technology.

For example: A pair of surgical gloves, we were told, goes through multiple distribution points before your doctor snaps them on. Providing a more efficient way to procure and deliver the gloves would put a lot of people out of work. The resistance to change would be industry-wide and fierce.

Once you give millions of people free or heavily subsidized health care, taking it away has serious career-limiting effects on politicians’ chances for re-election. How to improve our health-care system? First, reverse the perversion of Medicaid’s original purpose. Second, force Congress members and their staffs to use ObamaCare without subsidies, as they should have been from the start but the Democrats fudged their way out of it. Then enact congressional term limits.

Don Wrege,


We are so much better off since the Affordable Care Act has been implemented. If it changed nothing else, the fact that insurance companies cannot deny a person coverage for pre-existing conditions makes the plan better by an order of magnitude than what Americans previously had.

But have you noticed the senior citizens among us with their private smiles and quiet sighs of relief as the rest of the country held its breath until John McCain gave his now-iconic thumbs down to the repeal of the ACA? Medicare has virtually changed the health and lives of this group of people. It should be expanded to provide that same relief for everyone. The U.S. should join every industrialized nation on earth and provide universal coverage.

Is it perfect? Of course not. But we should spend our time improving Medicare for all rather than returning to the bad old days. One improvement that immediately comes to mind is eliminating the inexplicable law that forbids the U.S. government from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices. This was the free-market Republicans’ condition before they would vote for Medicare prescription drug coverage.

We could also do more to incentivize doctors to think about less expensive forms of treatment if the outcome for the patient would essentially be the same. For example, try physical therapy before immediately opting for surgery.

We can improve much about our health care but first let’s make sure everyone is covered so we can all breathe more easily.

Fern O’Brien,


The Camera’s editorial advisory board members are: Mara Abbott, Judy Amabile, Rett Ertl, Michelle Estrella, Fern O’Brien, Cha Cha Spinrad, Alan Stark, John Tweedy, Chuck Wibby and Don Wrege. (Steve Fisher is an emeritus member.)


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