“Why does Mother Jones buy into the ‘healthcare is different’ theory?”

The Catch

As a long-time Mother Jones subscriber and also a commercial fisherman with 35 years experience, I was disappointed to see Mother Jones jump on the anti-fishing bandwagon in the recent issue. There were also errors that left me with several questions. Why does a foundation whose money comes from big oil, the Pew Center, invest so much in vilifying the fishing industry? Why is the explanation of nitrogen pollution in the Chesapeake Bay so illogical? Why does the article claim that the management councils don’t work because they are dominated by commercial fishermen, while admitting that the North Pacific council, which has always been completely dominated by commercial fishermen, has set up the best fisheries management program in the world?

The core of the American fishing industry has been small-family businesses. The anti-commercial fishing campaign has been financed largely by big oil and wealthy big-game fishermen. The Audubon society has also been in the forefront on this. I just saw an announcement for an Audubon Society-sponsored three-week around-the-world trip that costs $50,000 per person. I don’t think Mary Harris Jones would be signing up for that trip if she were around today. I think she would look at the problems of the fishing industry from the perspective of the working fisherman.

John LaGrange
Solana Beach, Ca

The Great Bailout

I would love to think that the current polls mean a big shift to the Dems, but there are too many “safe” Republican seats. Unless there are a lot of independents in these districts or a change in the composition of the population, I don’t see the Dems taking control of Congress this fall. It will be interesting to see if Americans do consider Bush incompetent like Carter. I sure wish the majority of Americans would vote to shift control of Congress. Our once-great country depends on it.

Catherine Brabant
Lincoln Park, Michigan

Universal Coverage: Many Roads to Rome?

Like many Americans, I don’t get it. Why is healthcare always treated so differently from police and rescue services?

Police and rescue services are paid for by taxes and are universally available to all Americans regardless of income or employment status. The police and fire departments in America are among the finest and most technologically advanced on earth and are available to every citizen 24hrs a day. Firemen do not ask for an insurance number or run a credit check before putting out a fire or rescuing a citizen. Nor do the police demand “payment up front” before saving your life from a mugger. When we call 911 no one has to wait 4 hours before speaking to a police dispatcher to ask for help, nor do the police refuse to offer services because our accounts are 90 days past due. The service is generally instantaneous and no one gets a bill after the cops come and save your life. The police never save a woman from being raped and then send her a bill for $5,000 for their services. Nor would the police refuse to assist someone if they were 90 days later in paying that $5,000. Nor would a rape victim’s credit be ruined if she couldn’t pay that $5,000 police bill.

There is literally no difference, in most Americans’ minds, between how a police department operates and how a hospital should (keyword: should) operate. Yet by some bizarre form of logic we are told that a tax payer based healthcare system would bankrupt hospitals and they’d never be able to buy new equipment again. Once more, citizens like myself can’t understand why the system works so perfectly for police and fire departments, but would apparently fail if applied to healthcare.

Hospitals are currently required by law and morality to provide medical care, no matter how expensive, to everyone that needs it in an emergency. So what happens when hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people get “free” healthcare every year because they can’t afford to pay the hospitals one penny of their enormous bills? They hospitals lose money and are forced to raise their costs to compensate. Yet if we went to a taxpayer-funded approach, the millions of Americans making $7/hr without benefits, who would ordinarily never pay one penny of their $10,000 medical bill, would suddenly be paying into the system. I don’t understand how getting millions of people to start paying, by way of taxation, would actually make healthcare more expensive.

Why does Mother Jones buy into the “healthcare is different” theory? Do you also believe that tax payer funded services for healthcare identical to our police and fire systems is also unworkable?

Chris Robison

Using a Medicare Scalpel

Very nice piece. I am a biomedical researcher at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. While I am not a clinician, I train graduate and medical students and interact with Orthopedic Surgeons on a daily basis. From my 25+ years at Penn and Harvard, I have made several observations of the medical system in this country:

1. We need a single payer system that guarantees all people in this country access to high quality medical care. (Remember insurance companies lop off about 20 percent for overhead — i.e., a financial middle man)

2. Medical students should not pay one dime to attend medical school. Graduate students in our department have their tuition covered and receive a $15,000/yr stipend to cover living expenses. The same benefit should be applied to every medical student as well. Medical students graduate with $100,000-200,000 in debt. This creates problems down the line, like having to get into a high-paid specialty (remember — paid by people like you and me!) to pay back loans and support the Audi.

3. Salaries vary for doctors. Primary care (Family Practice, OBGyn, Internal Medicine, Peds) pays less, while exotic specialties (Cardiology, Orthopedics, Ophthalmology, etc) are highlypaid. Salaries should be more equal. We should remember that many high-grossing specialties are directly paid by Medicare (read the taxpayers!).

Maybe this is dreaming. I think having a single-payer system along with fully-paid medical education will create a better health care system for all involved.

Paul Billings

Swarthmore, PA

Praise the Lord and Pass the Petition

I’m sure I do not have to point out to you that not all Christians are “right-wing Jesus freaks,” as one of your responders puts it. In fact, there are many of us who abhor the narrowness and sectarianism of the Robertson religious right and abhor the unjust, violent and failed policies of the present administration. Many of us are faithful MoJo readers.

Peace,

Rev. Dave Shephard
Indiana

Reforming California’s Prisons: An Interview with Jackie Speier

I would like to mention that the reality is that our prisons are here only to warehouse inmates. The concept of rehabilitation is, for the most part, a joke. The attempts to rehabilitate or even teach prisoners skills, are minimal, when they occur at all.

I am a former inmate who was housed at all three of the women’s prisons. Bottom line: the prison administration (and by the ‘trickle down theory’ the guards as well) couldn’t care less about the inmates and their potential for becoming productive members of society upon their release. Their overriding interest lies in the almighty dollar–how to get the most they can for themselves while spending as little as possible on the inmates.

L.S.
Riverside, California