Writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper is one of the best ways to influence health care reform. Letters to the editor are an easy way to voice your opinion, draw attention to an issue, bring issues to the attention of your legislators, and correct or interpret facts in response to an inaccurate or biased article.
Submitting an effective letter
- Keep it short
- Use local statistics and personal stories
- Relate your letter to a recent article or op-ed
- Include your phone numbers and address, as the publication will need to confirm that you wrote the letter before they publish it.
- Opinion/editorials are longer than letters to the editor (between 500 and 800 words.)
- Be newsworthy: Tie your topic into an upcoming vote, appropriate holiday, anniversary, community event, the release of a new report, a recent article, or a popular movie.
- Consider inviting a respected or influential member or your community to co-sign or co-author the Op-Ed with you.
- Use local statistics to capture people’s attention.
- It usually takes editorial boards two weeks to review submissions.
Editorials endorsing a particular issue or piece of legislation can change even the most committed policy maker’s mind.
- Research the newspaper to discover if they already have written an editorial on the topic and to make sure that their editorials are locally written.
- Research your topic with an eye to arguments from other sides.
The following are examples of effective letters to the editor:
The cost of emergency room care
By John Perryman, M.D., May 27, 2018
To the Editor:
Re “Is That E.R. Trip Necessary? An Insurer May Not Think So” (front page, May 20):
Anthem’s tactic of refusing to pay emergency room bills in certain cases is portrayed as an effort to influence patient behavior and avoid the most costly medical setting for minor ailments. Asking frightened patients to diagnose their illnesses without the benefit of training is absurd on its face.
Anthem, like most health insurers, is obligated to maximize the wealth of its shareholders. The company has been very successful in this regard, generating profits of $3.8 billion in 2017, and paying an effective tax rate of 3.1 percent, according to Healthcare Finance.
The practice of threatening not to cover an E.R. visit is consistent with this goal. What does it matter if a few patients die or are injured because they are afraid of getting hit with a large medical bill? Profits jumped by 55 percent in 2017!
When third-party payers are driven to be profitable, these types of incentives result. This ridiculous, immoral situation is yet another reason the United States must adopt a single-payer health system.
There is just no denying that Medicare for all is the right solution
By Olveen Carrasquillo, M.D., September 21, 2018
To the editor:
Keep the government away from Medicare. Seriously?
Herman Cain, former CEO of the National Restaurant Association and a former presidential candidate, ludicrously argues that single-payer healthcare would be a death sentence for seniors in his Sept. 19 op-ed in the Miami Herald. He seems unaware seniors are already insured through single-payer health insurance — it’s called Medicare. He cites anecdotes from other countries, yet all academic studies show such nations have better access and quality healthcare. They also have better health outcomes at much lower costs.
In our public hospital, we are confronted daily with the suffering that results from having so many with poor access to health care. In our offices, we waste way too much time fighting private insurance companies that arbitrarily deny tests, procedures and medications to our patients. Skyrocketing insulin prices force many with diabetes to ration or not take their lifesaving medications.
It is easy to dismiss rhetoric from someone whose political ads highlighted the virtues of smoking. But Cain is correct that Obamacare was problematic. It provided many with expensive private insurance with limited benefits. Wisely, Obama has seen the error of his ways and now advocates for an improved Medicare for All.
Medicare is the right solution for our seniors and now needs to be extended to everyone else!
Dr. Carrasquillo is Professor of Medicine and Public Health; and Chief, Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine.
Our current medical system is failing
By H. Dixon Turner M.D., September 24, 2018
To the Editor:
I have been involved in providing primary care medical care for 44-plus years. Unfortunately, I now on a daily basis encounter many ways that our current medical system is failing. The costs of medical insurance, medications and many aspects of care are outrageously expensive and many patients do not even have access to basic care.
A case in point is the cost of epinephrine. I regularly order epinephrine ampules for the emergency cart in my office. Not too long ago I could get 25 ampules for around $25. When I ordered ampules about 18 months ago the cost for 25 ampules had risen to $62.50 or $2.50 per ampule. When I ordered the same ampules 2 weeks ago the cost had risen to $23-$25 per ampule!! That represents a 10 fold increase in cost in 1 ½ years. This is outrageous and quite frankly immoral. Unfortunately under our current medical care system such arbitrary price increases are allowed and are not regulated.
President Trump’s and the Republicans’ efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act will further fragment our medical care system, lead to more people not having access to care and will greatly increase the cost of medical care for all of us. These efforts — in the name of allowing “free choice” — only lead to increased profits for insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
Currently in the USA 17 percent of our GPA is spent on medical care, which does not cover all of our citizens. Compared to other developed countries, we have the worst medical outcomes even though those countries’ expenditures are as little as half as much as ours.
We must move toward a single payer or regulated payers’ system where reasonable limits are set on the cost of medications and medical care and in which all people are included and have access to medical care.