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Diagnosing the Health-Care Debate

Friday, September 11, 2009

Regarding President Obama's health-care address ["Obama Implores Congress to Act," front page, Sept. 10]:

I remember my mom, circa 1970, writing a check to the doctor for $50 that covered the cost of a visit plus a 30-day penicillin shot. Fast-forward to the 1980s and my first job with a preferred provider health-care organization, when I was stunned that a doctor visit cost me only a $10 co-pay.

Mr. Obama's speech was great. But I remain disappointed for two reasons.

First, I wonder why no one is talking about the loss of a true market valuation of services. Such valuation could help me decide whether to see a doctor for a bad cold or get an expensive treatment. And I'm a Democrat (yes, Democrats are capitalists, too). Why isn't transparency, the lack of which brought down our economy, central to the debate?

Second, although the president put big interests in their place, he failed to tell the public what we can do. Reducing waste is great, but will it really cover those in need and maintain high-quality services? I'm even willing to pay more -- if only I knew what I was paying for.

NANCY HUDDLESTON

Annandale

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Unless you believe, as did Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina ["The Congressman Who Cried 'Lie!,' " news story, Sept. 10], that the president was lying in his address to Congress, it is difficult to fault the health-reform plan that Mr. Obama presented Wednesday night. He was clear, specific, and tough but compassionate, and he made clear that he would see a strong health-reform bill passed this year.

Listening to Mr. Obama, I remembered why I began supporting him in 2006. He is a transformative figure at a transformative time in American history. Statements such as "I am determined to be the last" and "we came to build a future" were not mere phrases used to whip up television viewers but words spoken from the heart of a man who believes in the American people and will do everything in his power to improve their lives.

HENRY A. LOWENSTEIN

New York

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Rep. Joe Wilson's ill-mannered behavior during President Obama's address before Congress was emblematic of the Republican Party's lack of commitment to an honest, civil debate on health-care reform. It was no coincidence that Mr. Wilson's outburst resembled the disruptive tactics of the August town hall meetings.

There should be no doubt that congressional Republicans are bent on thwarting the president's agenda at any cost, including sacrificing the health and welfare of the American people. No distortion of fact is too perverse nor any falsehood too outlandish for the Republicans as they fight health-care reform the way they once did Social Security and Medicare.

HAL HOLZMAN

Columbia

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While I may disagree with the choice of venue, I applaud South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's guts in calling out President Obama. Like the child who proclaimed "The emperor has no clothes," someone has to recognize that Obamacare, in its present form, would be a disaster for our hospitals, our physicians and our economy. We're being taxed to death now, and this plan will make it much worse.

While Mr. Obama said nice things to Sen. John McCain, I did not hear a single word of true compromise. Mr. Obama obviously believes he has enough votes to jam this plan down our throats, and Wednesday night he declared that this is how it will get done.

I'm sorry Mr. Wilson did it during the speech, but I am glad that he spoke up.

MARK EATON

Lancaster, Mass.

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In commenting on President Obama's speech, William Kristol said there is no health-care crisis. I have seen insurance companies deny coverage for prescribed medicine when no alternative is available; stories about hundreds of people driving great distances to get free care they couldn't otherwise afford; insured patients being denied care because the doctor that was treating them no longer accepts Medicaid; people filing for bankruptcy because of medical bills; and garnishments for thousands of dollars owed to hospitals and doctors. If all this doesn't indicate a crisis, I would like Mr. Kristol to tell me what does.

JEROME D. REMSON

Burke

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