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Health Care for All, or for All Individually?

October 23, 2003

If your health insurance premiums are going through the roof, thank the United Food and Commercial Workers union members picketing Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons. For people like the UFCW members who pay nothing, health care is a "free good" that they over-consume. At the earliest sign of a minor ailment, they see their physicians. If their physicians order ridiculously expensive tests or treatments ... fine, do it, someone else is paying. To compensate, companies insuring UFCW members must charge others, like me, absurdly high premiums to break even. If UFCW members contributed to their health-care expenses, they would be more responsible consumers of health care and premiums for everyone would decline.

Blair J. Berkley

Monrovia

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I don't understand why people bash the union members as having "sweetheart deals" on health insurance -- adding details on how much they pay for their own health insurance. You know, we could just eliminate all employer-sponsored health insurance for everyone; then nobody would have to be sour about somebody having a better deal. If only these people would make the same effort demanding a similar deal, rather than cutting down those who have it.

Sandy Britt

Sun Valley

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If we all agree that the high cost of health insurance is a major problem, why isn't it being addressed? The leaders of the major grocery stores and the MTA need to breathe down the necks of the people running the health insurance companies. They are the source of escalating costs of health insurance. Don't misplace the blame on hard-working employees who want to maintain health coverage for themselves and their families.

Julie Lie

Long Beach

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I've been supporting the striking supermarket and MTA workers. However, theirs is not the entire story. My husband and I are self-employed. There is no one to help us cover our health needs. We have to pay 100% of the premium for any health insurance we find. Since I turned 50 this year, my share of our premiums has skyrocketed. I suppose that between the ages of 50 and 65, when we are eligible for Medicare, we're supposed to contemplate going out on an ice floe and dying. We have a choice of insurance that barely covers anything and costs $400 a month, with a $5,000 deductible, or paying over $500 for any meaningful coverage. We need universal health care and we need it soon.

Randy Lofficier

Reseda

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Nadine Semer and Zelda McKay (letters, Oct. 18) see a universal, single-payer system as the answer to our health-care woes. But adjacent to their letters is "MTA Is Full of Apologies, but That's Still No Excuse" (Voices), describing the disastrous experience of universal, single-payer mass transit. Where is the track record of a large government agency providing high-quality, cost-effective services? The Department of Motor Vehicles? The L.A. Unified School District? How about the Pentagon? In this context, the idea of government-run health care doesn't look too appealing.

So, why is our private health-care system so lousy? The main problem is that it's not really so private. Government regulations and tax incentives mandate a business model that mimics a single-payer system, with the employer as a surrogate for the government, offering the illusion of "free" or heavily subsidized health insurance. The ideal would be for workers to trade their employer health plans for higher cash wages and the freedom to shop around for the health plans that best meet their individual needs.

Frederick Singer

Huntington Beach

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Enough of all the strikes. All it would take is for Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger to state that his top priority upon taking office will be health insurance and workers' compensation reform. Ask both sides to cool off for a few months and give him a chance to work. Both sides save face and in the long run all employers and employees in California come out ahead.

John Longfield

Colton

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