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Reader Opinion: Our health care mess

I applaud the Dec. 28 letter writer for raising critical questions about the outrageous costs of health care. The reason simple answers aren't forthcoming is because there aren't any.

The writer could read Time magazine's cover report Bitter Pill, of March 4, 2013, the longest story in their history. Author Steven Brill answers the question, "Why medical bills are killing us?"

Brill researched health care in 50 nations. In every case except here, health care is a right of citizenship and is delivered as a public-owned, single-payer service. Compared by infant mortality rate, America ranks a shameful last among these 50, nine places worse than Cuba.

Here are a few conclusions about America's outrageous medical costs. Pharmaceuticals are globally a trillion dollar business. We Americans, with 5 percent of the world's people, consume over 40 percent of all drugs. Drug companies have built a wall protecting their profits, and we taxpayers pay for it. Advertising of drugs is only legal here and it costs $5 billion a year. Drug lobbying of Congress is another billion a year.

Large nonprofit hospitals rack up hundreds of millions of dollars in profit. Nonprofit just means they don't pay income taxes. Their CEOs earn multi-million salaries, another uniquely American phenomenon. No wonder hospitals mark up the cost of drugs as much as 10,000 percent. It also explains why hospitals are buying up private practices. Nationally only 35 percent of physicians operate privately, and only 23 percent in Minnesota.

Where health care is a public owned and operated service, taxpayers are protected from exploitation because taxpayers own the hospitals and also pay for the education of their doctors.

Foolish politicians who fantasize that private sector solutions would fix the system are uninformed. No such system exists anywhere in the world.

David Strand