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Letters: What should Congress do about surprise medical bills?

Johnson City Press • Jul 7, 2019 at 6:00 AM

We asked our readers how they think Congress should handle surprise medical billing and health care costs. Here are some of the responses we received.

Surprise bills only part of the problem

Surprise medical bills are a small, although very annoying, part of a bigger problem: our health care system.

If you interview all the patients and all the physicians, nurses and technicians, if you inspect all the hospitals and clinics, if you investigate the drug companies and the equipment manufacturers, you will find it difficult to not conclude that the profit motive and free enterprise are the root causes of our out-of-control health care system. The profit motive is a fine thing for people who make automobiles and computers. Free enterprise is a good idea when you want to grow potatoes in your garden and sell them at the farmer's market.

But in health care, I believe that free enterprise and the profit motive are to blame for the high cost and the low rate of satisfaction of health care in America. Single-payer universal coverage funded by the federal government is the answer.

Of course, it will require higher taxes. I mention that now so it won't come as a surprise.

REV. JEFF BRIERE
Johnson City

Quit playing politics with health care

It is refreshing to see our representatives — Congressman Roe and Senator Alexander — work in bipartisan agreements with others to pass legislation to regulate medical billing which is out of control and long overdue. Complicated accounting practices which require additional administrative costs, prescriptions and unnecessary tests (lawsuit prevention) are the main drivers that cause health insurance premiums to skyrocket, not the direct patient costs.

However, the benefits now will not force the costs of insurance premiums down to the point where the average working person without insurance can afford any type of meaningful coverage without some type of premium assistance either with a tax benefit (Affordable Care Act) or government provided (Medicare or Medicaid) coverage.

Do the math, the average premium costs per month (employer gross costs) for an individual in the group insurance market is in the $600 range monthly, with family coverage in the $1,500 range. Reduce these rates by 50%. Is it still affordable if the person pays all the premiums? A family of four making $50,000 gross annually, take home after taxes $3,800 per month and pay $750 or approximately 20% for health insurance! These amounts do not include any out of pocket if they get sick.

If Medicare for all is not a feasible option and can't be passed by legislation, fix the Affordable Care Act (originally a Republican idea presented by Richard Nixon) and for Tennessee, pass Medicaid expansion. Both sides are going to have to quit playing politics to fix the problem we as a country have providing affordable medical care for all citizens regardless of income.

WILLIAM PRENDERGAST
Elizabethton

This Letter to Forum covers a different topic of importance to one of our readers.

A five-alarm ‘Thank you!’

On behalf of the Johnson City Fire Department and the Johnson City Firefighters Association, I would like to thank everyone that attended our Save the Seagrave fundraiser at Tetrick Funeral Services on June 29. An especially hardy thanks to our hosts Richard Tetrick, Laura Graham and the staff of Tetrick Funeral Services for making this event possible.

This project to restore Johnson City Fire Department's 1928 City Service Truck is well on its way to completion. This would not be possible without the community support we have received.

A thank you as well to BSA Troop 240 Gray for their participation and honorable flag retirement ceremony. We look forward to seeing the Seagrave participate in future community and fire safety events. Thank you again for your support!

AVERY KNAPP
Johnson City

Want to have your voice heard? Send a Letter to the Forum. Authors must sign their letters and include addresses and phone numbers for verification. Letters may be no longer than 300 words and will be edited for grammar, style and length. Send your submission to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717 or [email protected]

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