Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Health Care and Food Safety

There's a health care debate playing out in the "Another Voice" section of the Buffalo News. Today's Another Voice features an op-ed essay from Western New York Working Families steering committee member Eric Walker:
"Our free market health care system works very well for insurance companies and drug companies, which are making record profits. It does not work well for families, who are watching their premiums and co-payments become more outrageous every year.

Forty years ago, we had a different problem in health care. Elderly people had been priced out by insurance companies and couldn't afford insurance on the free market.

Instead of defending the insurance companies, people demanded a real solution. The government created Medicare, which provides health care to millions of seniors far more efficiently than any private insurance company.

Today, millions of New Yorkers work hard but can't afford health insurance. We can get bogged down in ideology or we can demand real solutions.
. . .
We need solutions that work, and when it comes to life-saving medical care, throwing sick people on the tender mercies of the free market hasn't been effective. Medicare showed that government can be incredibly effective in health care, efficiently and economically providing care to people who need it.

While Southwick's ideology demands that government is the problem, the rest of us should not overlook the plain fact that, for millions of Americans, it has been the life-saving solution."
It's worth reading all of Eric's op-ed.

Eric wrote his letter in response to an earlier Another Voices op-ed by Lawrence Southwick Jr that made the claim:
"The free market does a superb job of delivering food at ever lower costs.

Get government out of the way and health services will do so as well."
I'll point out that our government is actually heavily involved in food delivery - both subsidizing food production and insuring food safety - to the benefit of us all. In fact, news that government is "getting out of the way" of delivering food and "conducting half the food safety inspections it did three years ago" is a cause for concern.

Maybe that makes the point best - government getting out of the way means killer spinach, poison peanut butter and dinner served with a side of E. coli. Personally, I prefer more government involvement, thank you very much.

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1 comment:

Eddie Limoncelli said...

Unfortunately, having our government in our food system IS a problem - because, like healthcare companies, our government prefers to skew the food production and delivery systems to increase profits for the huge food conglomerates (not to mention the oil/transportation industries) instead of the American people.

Our food is getting more and more expensive - and most importantly, less and less healthful!!! Cheap, highly processed food leaves little nutrition for us who eat it while maximizing the profits for the companies who produce it. The recent - and long overdue IMHO - trend toward organic and locally produced food is a great start that our government needs to listen to. Now if we can only keep the government from watering down the official definition of "organic" to appease their food conglomerate buddies, we'll have some real progress!

For some real info, read "Eat Here" by Brian Halweil (disclaimer: I get no money for recommending this book)