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Other Voices: U.S. health care – go team!

On Feb. 20, The Union published an Other Voices piece by Anthony W. Halby of Nevada City. The letter was very well written – quite professional, in fact – and the author should be pleased to know that his dazzling effort has been swiftly and widely copied.

A quick Google search shows that whole paragraphs of his “opinion” can be found – word for word – in a stream of letters to the editor around the country. Amazing! At this rate, Mr. Halby’s ringing phrases will surely echo all the way back to the insurance lobby’s media mills in Washington.

Way to go, Mr. H! I, for one, have no doubt that a lucrative job offer will soon be forthcoming.



I took Mr. Halby’s opinion column about our health care triumphs to a friend who is currently deferring urgent treatment because she cannot afford it. (You know, to cheer her up). And I must say she was deeply moved. She agrees that it is truly awe-inspiring that U.S. “Big Pharma” has developed the “top-selling drugs in the world” – and she added that she would feel even more pride if she could afford any of them.

“Sheesh,” I said. “Quit whining. I have health insurance, and I can’t take any of that stuff either – unless they’re on Blue Shield’s ‘approved list.'”




“Aren’t you mad as heck about that?” she cried.

“Hey, relax! At least critical decisions about my health care aren’t being made by some heartless bureaucrat in Washington!”

“You’d rather they be made by a company whose profits spike every time they deny you care?” she gasped.

“You betcha!” I said with an engaging wink. “Sarah Palin says the insurance companies are my good buddies, and the pinko government is my enemy.”

“What the hell have you been putting in that tea of yours?”

Well, obviously, my friend is really backwards, politically speaking, so I went on to tell her of a few more “firsts” for the American insurance industry that even the eagle-eyed Mr. Halby overlooked:

Like executive compensation, for instance, which was topped by Mr. Ron Williams of Aetna, who pulled in a tidy $24.3 million last year. Way to go, Ron! Hope you are enjoying the Bush-era tax cuts for people in your bracket! And in case you are worried about how the health care execs are doing – hey, relax! Angela Braly at Wellpoint cleared a neat $9.8 million! Not too bad, Angela!

And, of course, there’s that statistic in which America is truly in a league by itself – bankruptcies due to health costs. Yup, folks! We are the undisputed champs of the developed world here (though that may be because no one else is playing). The figures vary with whose reports you read, but it looks like health costs are the direct cause or a leading factor in about half the nation’s bankruptcies. Go team!

And the final, dizzying statistic: 46 million of our fellow citizens cannot afford health insurance, which means they will skimp on preventive care, and die or go bankrupt as a result. We’re the big “No. 1” here, and will continue to be for years to come!

Wow! That makes me really proud. How about you, Mr. Halby? I know you wouldn’t think about plagiarizing somebody else’s writing and passing it off as your own, so I give you full permission to show your customers this column next time you sell a policy.

This is no time to be modest about the health insurance industry’s accomplishments.

Richard Hurley lives in Grass Valley.


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