THE BLOG

Open Letter to Senator Cantwell Re: Public Option

04/21/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Senator Cantwell,

I'm not a proponent of big government. My philosophy tends to adequate government, with a price tag that is sufficient to accomplish what needs to be done. A public option for health care needs to be done.

There is an exponentially growing crisis of a personal nature to your constituents and the American public as a whole in health care.

In 1995, I was one of the first thousands of Americans to have a cardiac stent implanted. I was grateful for the option, the skill, the technology, still am by virtue of it. Otherwise, what follows would never have been written.

In 1995, the bill came to $5,000 for the procedure and $35,000 for a ten day hospitalization. Staggering enough. In November of last year, that stent finally wore out and a new one was deployed. They said I was doing good to have it last that long. The costs were $12,000 for the procedure and $59,000 for a day and a half hospitalization. The procedure was slightly more than double, but the hospitalization was 11 times as much. I do not feel 11 times better than I did in 1995. I am not 11 times more alive. I am 11 times poorer. As far as I could tell, the only difference was that the new technology for post operative closure of the femoral artery has resulted in a shorter stay. Big deal, would a ten day stay have cost $393,000? I don't know, and there is no way to find out short of an M.D., an M.S. in hospital administration and a full time job investigating hospital billing.

You can't shop for health care. To begin with there are thousands more maladies from which you could suffer than there are items on a fast food menu. The maladies all have Latin names for Christ sake, and you are not often in a position to quibble when you arrive in an ambulance.

Senator, I know that the Northwest corridor of the Northwest is home to many medical technology companies run by conscientious people with conflicted interest in this crisis, who would otherwise tend toward public spiritedness. I know that the duties of their boards is to the shareholder's stock value. I know that nonprofit providers and for-profit insurers consort with government officials to achieve the best financial result for those interests. But, you must know, be able to see, that the business model that has evolved over the last two decades is a dead end. Ever increasing prices for the same service/product will simply result in fewer customers paying more for the same product, compounding ever year. It extrapolates to an end, and not happily for the public, business or government. It is only a matter of time that grows exponentially shorter by the day. You must grasp the math.

Were the issue only a matter of money, say flat screen TV prices over peoples lives, it would be of no consequence. We can choose not to buy a new TV. We seldom choose not to live. A few flowers and a nice greeting card follow up customer satisfaction survey do not hide the evidence of outright monopolistic extortion.

Senator, sign on to pass the public option through reconciliation, and put a stop to the whirlpool of self destruction in which our health insurers and providers have swept us all. I put it this way for their benefit, in hopes that their enlightenment may save the lives of tens of thousands of Americans this next year alone.

Finally, excess in government is no greater burden on the public than are excesses in monopolistic business. I did not see it fall, but rather whither away, that sense of fealty to the principles of liberty and equality and the honor of fairness in which I was steeped as a young man. Young no longer, I hope, perhaps in vain, that the common good to which our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, shall not have been a fragile bloom and perish in this winter of selfishness.

Stephen Herrington