- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 7, 2007

Canada’s health-care model

John Graham’s article, “Universal winners and losers” (Op-Ed, Friday), grossly mischaracterizes universal health care, particularly with his reference to Canada. Despite the fact that his whole premise about a capitalist cure for health care is simply wrong, he ignores that fact that universal health care in Canada is more accessible and overall less expensive than health care in the United States.

Mr. Graham’s argument rests on the misplaced faith that given a free hand the market will sort itself out for the benefit of society. A comparison between the health-care systems of Canada and the United States shows this is not true for medicine.

Canada spends only 60 percent as much per person on health care as the United States, while guaranteeing access to all Canadians. Moreover, health issues such as infant mortality and life expectancy are better in Canada than the United States. Basically, Canadians have better care, better health and less expensive care.

The “long wait times” often pointed to as criticism only refer to nonemergency care and are not nearly as frequent as Mr. Graham would like one to believe.

Universal health care is built on the idea that health is a basic human right the government should provide and not a privilege based on monetary wealth.

To get a real medical reason for universal health care one should look back to an earlier issue of The Washington Times (March 18) and read Dr. Alex Gerber’s “The health care crisis” (Commentary, March 18). He notes that “The National Institute of Medicine has reported that 18,000 Americans die yearly for lack of health insurance, and our economy loses $60 billion to $130 billion per year due to poor health and early death.”

And despite Mr. Graham’s assertion that “Costs go up, patient satisfaction goes down,” Dr. Gerber writes that “a recent Harris Interactive poll among the leading industrial societies that evaluated patient satisfaction with their health-care system. Canada ranked first and the United States last. An ABC News poll found that, by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans prefer a switch to Canada’s health-care system.”

STEVE PRIME

Toronto, Ontario

John Graham’s “Universal winners and losers” is a reasonable calculation of the costs of a universal health-care system like Canada’s without taking into account any of the benefits. Mr. Graham explains, “the Canadian experience confirms that government monopoly health care, though billed as ‘universal,’ has trouble delivering the goods.” While there are legitimate concerns with some parts of the Canadian system, isn’t increased life expectancy at birth, lower infant mortality rates and a drastically smaller maternal mortality ratio, as compared with the United States, not also a part of the “goods”?

The potential for increased union activity and membership under a single-payer system is an interesting argument, but is probably not a reasonable counterargument to the health-related grounds for serious reform. Maybe the very free-market efficiency he demands would be even more likely under a single-payer system since, as Mr. Graham reminds us, “a state bureaucracy would decide whether a hospital could add a new operating room or MRI machine.”

Ed Gillespie explained today in a Business Week interview why he thinks there is a growing trend toward big business supporting government health-care reforms: “American companies are at a disadvantage in an increasingly global economy. Businesses realize you’re either going to be a part of the problem or part of the solution.”

Regardless of the impact of unionization, groups traditionally opposed to single-payer systems are reconsidering their positions. Soon enough, threats of increased unionization and other theoretical results of increased government oversight and payment in health care will be overshadowed by the proven results that market-minimized systems have shown for decades.

RACHEL SOBELSON

Providence, R.I.

Encouraging political participation

Looking at the fund-raising numbers from Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are encouraging (“Campaign money-makers,” Editorial, Tuesday and “Obama exhibits monetary might,” Page 1, Thursday).

I am not talking about the sheer amounts of money that they raised during the first quarter of 2007, as impressive as they may be, but rather the number of small donors to each campaign. Particularly in the case of Mr. Obama, it is great that new people are getting involved in the political process. Let’s hope we see continued increased involvement in this 2008 presidential race.

STEVEN M. CLAYTON

Ocean, N.J.

Compulsory unionism and worker freedom

Timothy Sandefur (“Union dues and free speech,” Commentary, Wednesday) notes that it’s high time that workers’ rights not to fund union politics against their will be protected by the Supreme Court.

I could not agree more. Nonunion employees who are forced to pay union fees or be terminated have already chosen not to associate so their dissent from union politics should be presumed. Unions should get permission before using government-coerced and -extracted collective-bargaining fees for politics.

A correct court decision will bring some justice but it won’t solve the fundamental problem of forced union dues as a condition of employment.

The paycheck protection law under the court’s review has not limited the ill effects of compulsory unionism — such as forced dues for politics, as well as intimidation, harassment and ostracism for those who differ from the union’s point of view. It has transformed public schools from a free marketplace of ideas to an institution characterized by groupthink, conformity and silence, born out of fear for one’s livelihood.

The solution is passage of right-to-work laws that ban forced dues and exclusive bargaining privileges. These laws would make unions earn the right to serve and speak for the workers they are supposed to represent. They would protect one of the American worker’s most fundamental and cherished rights, the First Amendment.

CINDY OMLIN

Executive Director

Northwest Professional Educators

Spokane, Wash.

In his Wednesday Commentary article, Timothy Sandefur noted the Supreme Court will soon rule on an important free-speech case involving how labor organizations spend money on political activity.

Most legal commentators predict a loss for the Washington Education Association, which intentionally violated a state law requiring unions to get permission before spending nonmember fees on political purposes.

Anticipating an adverse ruling, the Washington Education Association is attempting to play its trump card. The union drafted legislation that would mitigate the impact of a ruling, and prevailed upon Washington state lawmakers — all of whom have received union contributions — to introduce the proposal (H.B. 2079). The practical effect is that unions will rarely, if ever, be required to seek permission from nonmembers before using their payments for political activity.

The sponsors attached an “emergency clause” to the bill, which allows the legislation to take effect immediately and insulates it from a voters’ referendum. Why the rush to amend the law? Democratic State Sen. Margarita Prentice said, “In union there’s strength, and there’s a reason why unions exist, and why they have [this] kind of power — and I think we need to do everything we can to preserve that.”

Obviously, union power is more important to some than the individual rights of workers.

MICHAEL REITZ

Director

Labor Policy Center

Evergreen Freedom Foundation

Olympia, Wash.


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