I sent the following letter to Arizona's junior senator, Jon Kyl, today. If you're in AZ and would like to personalize it and send him something similar, you can do so here. Kyl is on the Senate Finance Committee, which is currently marking up the Baucus bill, so the sooner the better...
You could be a little more polite than I was... I don't think he expects politeness from me. I'm sure I'm on a list somewhere.
Dear Senator Kyl,
I know we seldom seem to agree on much, and the health care reform debate is not different. But if you would, I'd like to ask, as a voter and constituent, that you look at things from a different perspective for a moment.
The health care reform debate has turned into a discussion of semantics and numbers. What's a death panel? What is the public option? How much will it cost taxpayers? And so on.
But what the discussion really should be about is people. Not stockholders, not insurance executives, but sick people who need to get well. Because that--supposedly--is what insurance is about.
We've let our insurance system evolve into something else, though--a many-headed beast designed to allow companies to profit from the medical distress of Americans. How do insurance companies make money (and lots of it)? They sell premiums to a large number of people. Some of that money has to be paid out in benefits. The difference between benefits and premiums (less overhead, obviously) is profit. That means the insurance companies, as they're currently structured, make MORE money if they DENY benefits to people.
But those people aren't really faceless numbers. They're sick kids, single mothers with viral infections, working dads with a broken leg or a heart attack or a stroke. They're people with cancer, diabetes, swine flu. We're facing a possible pandemic and the health insurance industry is trying to discourage people from getting medical care in order to inflate its profits. You see the trouble with this system, right?
That doesn't even get into the number of bankruptcies and foreclosures caused by people who are uninsured or underinsured. When Americans are sick or injured, should their biggest worry be how they're going to pay their end of the medical bills? Or should it be how they can get the best medical treatment and get well?
Yes, in the short run, reforming health care, covering every eligible American, creating a public option to give those private companies some real competition for a change and to give Americans a choice (I'm a self-employed freelance writer, and I for one would LOVE a more reasonably-priced option) might be expensive. But in the long run, it saves money. If everyone is insured then we're not all paying for the uninsured people to visit ERs. Healthy competition and choice drive down prices all the way around.
And although it may take a few tax dollars to get all this up and running, to we, the people, there's no difference between spending money on taxes and spending it on things like insurance premiums. Except when it goes to taxes, it benefits us and all our fellow Americans. When it goes to premiums, it's only benefiting those execs and shareholders. Believe me, there are a lot of us out here who would rather help our fellow Americans be covered than help millionaire executives and stockholders get even richer.
Republicans seem to think that taxes are automatically bad. We the people know that's not true--that taxes are something we have to pay, just like we have to pay our electric bills and, yes, our insurance premiums. All the same to us. It's what we get back for our money that's important, and too often when we pay insurance premiums, what we get is lousy service and inadequate coverage.
So here's my proposal--how about if you announce a change of heart? Support a strong bill with a public option (which, after all, is what 77% of Americans want). That would be the kind of surprising bipartisanship that could break the left/right divide in Congress, and get both sides really talking, for a change, about how best to accomplish what really needs to be done. A good health care bill will be popular once it goes into effect (as are Social Security and Medicare, need I remind you). You'd be nationally famous as the guy who came through when it counted, who really bridged the aisles and made health care happen. Re-election wouldn't even be a question, and the presidency might be a possibility.
Or you could remain obstructive and unreasonable... your choice.
I'd love to see you pick the correct and honest path, Senator.
Jeffrey J. Mariotte