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I was initially pleased to see the Star Tribune highlighting Rep. Dean Phillips' attempts to bring bipartisanship back to Washington ("Phillips' bipartisanship tested by D.C. reality," July 4). We certainly need more of it. And his predecessor, Jim Ramstad, was a master at reaching across the aisle.

The article, however, was quick to note the congressman's list of extreme colleagues he refuses to reach out to.

While I share Mr. Phillips' disfavor for the far right and far left, effective congressional deal-makers will work with anyone to get things done — and seek out fringe members to bring them toward the middle. It's not easy work, but if Phillips really wants to make a mark in Washington, he should seek to do it. Simply calling oneself bipartisan and teaming with the other side when consensus is easy makes for good headlines but is ultimately inconsequential.

The congressman by all accounts is a good man with solid intentions. But his attempt at healing Congress could use more rigor.

Ward Brehm, Minneapolis

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Dean Phillips, bipartisan?As someone who lives in his district, I can attest to the fact that he is not! He is with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi all the way! I write a fair amount of letters to him and not once have I received a response that agrees with my stand on an issue. Bipartisan? Nope!

Connie Sambor, Plymouth

HEALTH INSURANCE

Convoluted, and profitable that way

The Star Tribune Editorial Board ("Decisions needed on health insurance," July 5) is right that health insurance companies should be weaned off the subsidies taxpayers have given them for providing the benefits they were already paid to provide. But the editorial did not adequately describe how outrageous this arrangement is or give a substantial alternative. These subsidies come as the New York Times reports, "The nation's leading health insurers are experiencing an embarrassment of profits."

Insurance companies claim they cannot operate without subsidies in some areas, especially in rural Minnesota, where health care needs are high and patients face more costly, monopolized health care. The fact that insurance companies refuse to operate in areas where they are needed most should tell us that we must stop relying on them.

It is past time to recognize, as have all other industrialized countries, that health care is something that everyone needs and is best treated as a public good, like education or fire protection. Studies have repeatedly confirmed that a publicly run payment system, eliminating private insurance companies, will lower health care costs for almost everyone. Moreover, care delivery and patient choice of providers will improve, while all Minnesota communities will be assured they have the medical facilities they need. Such plans include the Minnesota Health Plan that has been introduced in the Legislature and Medicare for All.

Mark Friedman, Mankato, Minn.

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The Editorial Board suggests an assessment on health insurance premiums in order to shift the cost of the state reinsurance program for individual health plans to the health insurers. Unfortunately, this remedy treats only the symptoms of our ailing health care system.

A recent column in the Business section (June 27) describes health insurance as "a way to manage risks and smooth out payments for things that really do cost a lot of money," such as emergency room care. This description may be accurate in the abstract, but in practice health insurance does not work this way in our country.

Consider these recent reports in the Star Tribune. The recently retired CEO of UnitedHealth Group received $42 million in compensation in 2020 (from April 29). Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurers agreed to pay $2.67 billion to settle claims that the plans harmed their patients by violating the antitrust laws (from June 27). UnitedHealthcare executives paused the implementation of their plan to increase profits even more by denying claims for emergency room care that they deem unnecessary (from June 11).

As T.R. Reid observes in "The Healing of America," the administrative costs of the for-profit health insurance companies are "a major reason why we spend more for health care — and get less in return — than any other developed country."

Michael W. McNabb, Lakeville

COVID VACCINE

As close to a miracle drug as can be

The reluctance — and even the adamant refusal — of people to get the COVID-19 vaccination is baffling to me. In 1989, I spent six days in an intensive care unit at a Minneapolis hospital — not with COVID-19, but with cancer. This experience left me convinced that one should do anything possible to avoid ending up in an ICU for even six hours, let alone six days.

The hope for a vaccine against the many variants of cancer is not yet even a faint glimmer of light on a distant horizon. But a highly effective, safe and even free vaccine against at least the current variants of COVID-19 has been available for some months now. COVID-19, a hoax? It's no more a hoax than cancer is. Believe me, one does not want to spend six days in an ICU while a team of medical professionals works to save your life. And an ICU is exactly where COVID-19 can land you, with you facing the same stark unknowns a cancer patient faces.

If you haven't already been vaccinated, please realize that nearly all patients admitted to a hospital now with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated. It's simply time to set the excuses aside and get the vaccine. Please do this simple act to keep you safe and to keep others safe as well. Leave the ICU beds and overworked hospital staff to patients unfortunate enough to be fighting diseases for which there is no vaccine.

Dean C. Hansen, Stillwater

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It is time for the U.S. to focus on robust vaccine sharing in Africa, which is currently battling its fastest moving wave of COVID-19. Global trade and travel will not be able to get back to normal until there is global herd immunity. Unfortunately, many African and countries are unable to support major labs for vaccine production. The U.S., along with Europe, needs to start prioritizing this continent. The World Health Organization says that less than 1.5% of the 2.7 billion vaccine doses administered globally thus far have been administered in Africa, a continent largely equipped to handle a health crisis. It is incumbent on the United States to get vaccines to Africa.

Leading the way in vaccine sharing is the perfect opportunity for the U.S. to show its commitment to humanitarian causes after several years of questionable responses to humanitarian crises. U.S. Reps. Dean Phillips and Ilhan Omar both serve on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and are both members of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar is one of the top dogs in the Senate! These three Minnesotans could lead the charge to support robust U.S. vaccine sharing in Africa, and I believe we should let them know that we support this cause.

Abraham Passman, Minnetonka

SPICE

No false advertising, please!

Dear Minnesota restaurateurs:

As a born-and-raised Minnesotan of Scandinavian descent, I was raised on meat and potatoes. The only spice we had in our diet was ketchup, mustard and maybe some occasional barbecue sauce.

Since then, I have traveled the world and enjoyed the many flavorful spices that other cultures have to offer. I like that spice to hit me in the mouth like a Mike Tyson uppercut and then make me sweat.

Please don't do what many newcomer restaurants do and entice me in with your spices and then water them down to fit the local palate.Many of us Minnesotans can not only take it, we want the spice!

If you are promising a "spicy" dish that does not leave a big wet spot on the bald area on top of my head, then something has gone wrong.On behalf of Minnesota spice lovers, bring it on!

Corby Pelto, Minneapolis

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