Letters to the Editor

Public good

January 26, 2010


To the editor:

After reading Mark Hirschey’s commentary in Sunday’s paper, I felt compelled to correct his misperceptions.

His comments reflect the old Reagan conservative idea that government isn’t the solution; it’s the problem. I’ve always felt government could and should solve problems that involve the public good.

Mr. Hirschey’s comparison of a government-run health system to the inefficiency and slowness of the U.S. Postal Service is a popular government bashing tactic. The “facts” prove otherwise. Comparing the Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx, we find their on-time delivery percentage basically the same. Comparing the consumer complaints percentage we also find it basically the same. When you factor in the Postal Service delivers more pieces in one day than the others do in a year, the misperception becomes a misrepresentation.

If Mr. Hirschey lived in countries with government-run health systems like Canada, Germany, England or Japan, he would have received the same excellent care he received here with not one dime out of pocket. Incidentally all those government-run health systems are rated superior to ours and at less cost per person.

My 82-year-old mother asked why we couldn’t have everybody contribute as much as they could afford into a fund and pay doctors and hospitals out of that. I said, “Mom, that’s a single-payer system and it was not part of any of the debate.” People like Mr. Hirschey would rather trust insurance companies than the government. Somehow I find that scary when you consider the latest financial debacle.


anon1958 7 years, 2 months ago

"If Mr. Hirschey lived in countries with government-run health systems like Canada, Germany, England or Japan, he would have received the same excellent care he received here with not one dime out of pocket. Incidentally all those government-run health systems are rated superior to ours and at less cost per person."

Even if you could persuade the teabaggers that this was the truth, they would still rather have their fantasy.

Tom McCune 7 years, 2 months ago

....uunnh.... I support a public option, but those countries you mention are not all the same. The Canadian system is one that has significant problems. It is underfunded to the point that they lack many of the modern medical technologies we take for granted. In Canada, you can go see a doctor and get some pills quickly, easily, and cheaply. But if you need a CAT scan and to see a specialist, you're hosed. You'll wait forever and maybe never get what you need.

I think the comparison of the USPS with FedEx and UPS is great. As a customer, that public/private competition/collaboration gives me a lot of choice in time, cost, and quality of service. Sometimes I use FedEx for $20 and sometimes I use the post office for $0.44. I want the same choice in medical care.

notajayhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

"If Mr. Hirschey lived in countries with government-run health systems like Canada, Germany, England or Japan, he would have received the same excellent care he received here with not one dime out of pocket."

Without even getting into your delusions of 'the same excellent care,' where do you think our tax money comes from if not out of our pocket, Randy?

"Incidentally all those government-run health systems are rated superior to ours and at less cost per person."

Ratings based on what, Randy? There simply is no objective measure of 'output' - what people get for their healthcare dollars - that can be used to compare between systems.

One thing we do know, though, Randy - the cancer survival rates are lower in the countries you mentioned. But don't let the facts get in the way of your party-line delusions.


(Are you reading, anon?)

mr_right_wing 7 years, 2 months ago

Yup...government needs to solve all our woes. We need to be lead by the hand, and they are the most efficient and effective at that. Maybe Obama should set up a hotline, so if we feel we need to use the rest facilities we can call in and ask permission. Then on the flip side someone in the government should have to call me and remind me it's time to leave my house for work.

It is amazing when you think back on the Kennedy administration (a democrat mind you!) and that famous quote "ask not what your country can do for you, rather ask what you can do for your country." Let me point it out again, that was a democrat president! A "Kennedy" even! All these years later we've become fat and lazy and depend on our gimmie-ment.

Brent Garner 7 years, 2 months ago

Having had a brother who lived in England for 2 years I would like to share his observations of the British National Healthcare System. He observed that emergency care and most routinge care--coughs, sniffles, sneezes--were handled and handled in a timely fashion and with a high level of care. However, if you needed anything beyond emergency care or the routine care then you were in trouble. He related to me how the British citizens he worked with might have to wait months for specialized care. His observation has been backed up and most recently by numerous articles in British newspapers decrying the lengthy waits for specialized care. So, if that is the example you wish to emulate, no thank you.

labmonkey 7 years, 2 months ago

I am sick of working, working, working, and paying taxes when I see so many people sponging off the system. I worked over 1000 hours of overtime last year, and all of that money went to the government....I had to work that just to net my base salary (and of course there were property taxes and sales taxes that came out of that). If you throw in healthcare, cap and trade, and of the tax increase that will have to happen with those and the "stimulus" package (because the government whores of both parties will not cut spending), I will have no motivation to go work overtime when it means more of my money, (I will say that again) my money goes to this deadbeat government and the deadbeats that sponge off it.

manbearpig 7 years, 2 months ago

I'm sorry, but comparing the Postal Service to FedEx and UPS is not really possible. Perhaps all of the statistics you gave are true, all they do is tell me how much better private industry actually works. Consider that FedEx and UPS do not receive the same government protection as the Postal Service. You cannot sue the Postal Service if they break their end of the agreement. Neither FedEx nor UPS has this protection. Further, it is illegal for either FedEx or UPS to carry basic mail. The fact that the Postal Service can only compete with such radical (anti-market) protections only goes to show what a public option will be.

Once the public option starts to hemorrhage money (which it will), the response will not be to improve efficiency but to handicap the competition using the powers of government. Increasing competition does not mean putting the referee on one of the teams.

mr_right_wing 7 years, 2 months ago

Excellent point above! Now...that same level of customer service, imagine that in an ER. I lived it in Surrey, B.C. (which is a suburb of Vancouver--maybe about half the size of Lawrence) I waited 3 hours. Patients actually go to the smaller town hospitals (from what they told me) because the wait in the ER at Vancouver General is easily about 6 hours ('on a slow night, eh?') Actual Canadians in Surrey told me this...this isn't something I'm guessing at.

I've had to go to the LMH ER twice, both were busy times and I waited about 45 min. to 1 hour. Our system is definitely flawed and needs to be fixed, but I'll take my 1 hour over the Canadian 3-6! God Bless America! (That's actually what I started humming in the waiting room...it seemed to really amuse the long-suffering cunnucks.)

Richard Heckler 7 years, 2 months ago

“They Dump the Sick to Satisfy Investors”:

Insurance Exec Turned Whistleblower Wendell Potter Speaks Out Against Healthcare Industry

As the debate over healthcare reform intensifies on Capitol Hill, we spend the hour with a former top insurance executive who’s now exposing the industry’s dirty secrets.

Wendell Potter once served as the head of corporate communications at CIGNA, one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies.

We speak to Potter about his own transformation from industry mouthpiece to whistleblower, the healthcare industry’s extensive PR and lobbying machine, the campaign to discredit Michael Moore’s film Sicko, and the insurance industry’s most pressing task: the fight against a public option, let alone a single-payer system.


Stephen Roberts 7 years, 2 months ago

If the Health care plan passed by the Dems is so great, why didn't they make Congress have to be included??

notajayhawk 7 years, 1 month ago

vertigo (Jesse Crittenden) says…

"Nice source nota- NCPA whose goal is to “develop and promote private alternatives to government regulation and control, solving problems by relying on the strength of the competitive, entrepreneurial private sector.”"

I don't suppose you noticed they didn't come up with the numbers - the data they used was from a study in Lancet Oncology.

"The source you are using lumps all of Europe together. I don't know about you but I have travelled quite a bit I know there is a big difference between Eastern Europe and Western Europe. Eastern Europe has some of the lowest cancer survival rates in the world, so it's quite disingenous to lump them in with France who has some of the highest survival rates in the world. It muddies the numbers up quite a bit."

And England has the worst in Europe. (They're not considered to be in Eastern Europe, BTW - and they have nationalized healthcare.) Only Sweden has survival rates better than the U.S., so no, it really doesn't matter if you lump all of Europe together.

notajayhawk 7 years, 1 month ago

vertigo (Jesse Crittenden) says…

  “Seriously? You don't think countries with low survival rates (Estonia, Poland, Malta, Czech Repub all in the low 30s to high 20s) don't drag down the countries with survival rates in the 50s and 60s when they're averaged out?”

  Yes - seriously. I didn't make any claims as to the numbers or the European average, my original statement was “the cancer survival rates are lower in the countries you mentioned.” That is a true statement, regardless of whether they're a little lower in Western Europe and a lot lower in Eastern Europe. There was nothing misleading about it, since (again) in all of Europe only one country - Sweden - has better survival rates than the U.S., and (also again) the lowest rates, even lower than those in Eastern Europe, are in England.

  “Your source deliberatly skewed the concord report by adding in Eastern European countries in order to skew the graphs.”

  They skewed nothing, as you mentioned their source was a Lancet study on survival rates in 'Europe.' And (again) whether the graphs were a little lower or a lot lower, (again) I only said they were “lower.”

"You know why Englands are so low? Because they don't start screenings for cancers at the same age we do. They start somewhere around 10 years later. And we all know that early screenings lead to early detection which leads to a higher probability of survival."

Why yes, I did know that. The article mentioned something to that effect. Interesting since one of the (inaccurate) claims about the deficiencies of our own healthcare system is that we're not as good at preventive measures.

  “But you chose instead to cite a organization whose primary agenda is to defeat any type of government run health care program.”

  The article in question was the first source I found, and they clearly identified the source of their data. I suppose I could have taken the time to search for and link to the original source, but I'd hoped the typical reader might have done so for him/herself, that they might have actually checked the validity of the claims instead of blindly accepting (or blindly rejecting) the information because of the source. (I apparently need to stop giving the readers the benefit of the doubt.) In any event, your logic suggests if Harry Reid cites a CBO report, I should ignore it, because even if the CBO study is accurate (a leap of faith in itself) Mr. Reid has a political agenda?

mhirschey 7 years, 1 month ago

I appreciate the many thoughtful comments on my editorial. I’d like to respond to a couple. I wrote:

“Given that the U.S. Postal Service is notoriously inefficient and slow, why should the same folks be put in charge of the U.S. health care system?”

To see the basis for my conclusion, please check out the hundreds of millions of dollars in income and property taxes that FEDEX and UPS pay to serve their customers. Contrast that amount with the gigantic and growing taxpayer-funded deficits of the U.S. Postal Service. Moreover, if the USPS were efficient, why do they so jealously guard their government-granted monopoly on the delivery of enormously profitable first-class mail?

I also wrote:

“The federal government has record of dismal failure when it comes to health care “reform.” More government meddling is an unlikely solution.“

By suggesting that the headlong rush towards nationalized health care is ill advised, a writer said I myself have benefitted from the already massive role of government in health care. I presume that this writer also believes that if the local government does a good job of collecting the garbage, then they should also tell us what kind of house to buy, and where to buy it. Getting ever more personal, the writer states that I myself benefit from a “good-paying job, with generous government-provided insurance benefits.” The facts are simple. I gave up higher private-sector pay elsewhere to come to KU in 1988, and I’ve never regretted it. Lawrence has been a great place to raise the kids, and KU has been good to me. I work hard, and KU does what it can to keep up with a competitive package of pay and benefits. For my paycheck, I elect to receive lower take-home pay by getting the most comprehensive health care plan available, parking, retirement, and other costs deducted. I would not say these benefits are provided by the government. I pay ‘em.

Finally, I was accused of being a “teabagger’! It was not intended as a compliment, but I kind of like being thrown in with early American idealists who favored limited government and greater personal freedom. I could be called worse.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

"Moreover, if the USPS were efficient, why do they so jealously guard their government-granted monopoly on the delivery of enormously profitable first-class mail?"

Enormously profitable? You've got to be kidding.

"I would not say these benefits are provided by the government. I pay ‘em."

And if there were a single-payer healthcare system, the vast majority of those who use it would likewise pay for it, although almost certainly less than they currently pay, for equal or better care.

But I guess the fact that a fraction of the population may get something they didn't pay for somehow makes it "free."

madameX 7 years, 1 month ago

I think alot of you are missing the point of the comparison between the USPS and FedEx/UPS. The point never was that one is better, or that government is efficient. The point was simply that one is a government entity which provides a particular service, and that the others are private enterprises which have had not problem competing with said government entity, meant to counter the argument that if a government option for health insurance comes in to existence private companies will somhow become crippled and forget how to compete by doing things better that the government can.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

Good point madame-- and given the considerable corporate sway over all things Washington, if UPS and Fedex wanted to be in the mail delivery business, they would have been long ago. They're more than happy letting the USPS struggle to keep their head above water doing basic mail delivery.

Mel Briscoe 7 years, 1 month ago

well written letter and i agree w/ your points. well said.

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