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Dear Readers: June 15, 2009--President Obama held a townhall meeting this week and also spoke to the American Medical Association promoting his proposal to create a government healthcare system that would compete against the private health insurance system. "If you love your healthcare plan, you can keep it," Obama pledged.


But if you're uninsured or under-insured, you would be able to opt into a government system, which also aims to save money for businesses strapped by rising healthcare costs for workers. (View video of the healthcare townhall meeting: View video of AMA address: A healthcare for all plan is also moving foward in the California Legislature. Republicans, meanwhile, have announced plans to unveil their own alternative proposal. We'll have in-depth analysis later this week, but meanwhile we bring you two editorials with divergent points of view.


Sylvia Hampton, past president of Healthcare for All California, makes a passionate argument for a single-payer healthcare system. Jim Stieringer, board president of Grossmont Healthcare, opposes single-payer or any government healthcare-for-all mandate. The healthcare debate has been fraught with inaccuracies and outright deceptions.


Fact: Neither Obama nor any leading member of Congress has proposed "socialized medicine." Socialized medicine is when the government owns the hospitals and doctors work for the government, as in Great Britain. Single payer, by contrast, is when the government pays privately-run hospitals and doctors, including thhose in private practice. Patients still choose their own doctors. Medicare is a single-payer system, and advocates of single-payer seek to expand a Medicare-type program to cover more people.


That said, Obama's plan is not a single-payer plan. Neither are proposals put forward Senator Ted Kennedy or Governor Howard Dean. While there are variations in coverage, all would essentially create a government system to compete against--not replace--the private healthcare insurance system. So those with no insurance or who are under-insured could opt into the government system if they choose.


Will any of these plans work? Can we afford them? Can we afford not to overhaul the healthcare system to help the millions who are uninsured or under-insured? These are important questions.


Our business manager, attending a health fair this weekend, asked insurers present what they'll do if the government sets up a competing system. Several admitted they would probably cut executive overhead and make improvements to be more competitive in order to attract and retain patients/clients. As for my opinion, whatever plan our elected officials enact should include clear requirements for certain procedures and treatments to be covered. A friend of mine died after her insurance company refused to cover a costly chemotherapy treatment for cancer, after a cheaper treatment caused life-threatening side effects. Another friend was shocked to learn that reattaching his intestines and removing a colostomy bag after bowel surgery was considered optional--not covered. This should not happen in America, in my views.


On this point, both Hampton and Stieringer agree--though one would solve the problem through healthcare for all, while the other would address such outrages legislatively. As the healthcare reform battle heats up, count on us to provide you with facts and analysis--not hype or spin. Meanwhile, to your health! Miriam Raftery Editor

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