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High Cost of Health Care

May 19, 1994

* I have been following with great interest the political rhetoric, both pro and con, regarding the issue of health care for all citizens of our nation.

My wife and I are members of an HMO system operated by a multibillion-dollar private insurance organization. Because of our ages, the plan cost is $500 per month. Recently, we discovered that my spouse has developed cataracts in each eye. For the past several months we have been endeavoring to have the condition corrected by surgery. I have not studied the Clinton proposal for universal care in great detail, but let me state that nothing that Bill and Hillary Clinton have devised could be as abysmal as what our private insurer provides.

We have been subjected to unbelievable harassment and delays and forced to jump through hoop after hoop in order to obtain the medical treatment for which we pay dearly.

The interesting thing is that the doctors with whom we are dealing have all been first-rate. However, what our HMO is, essentially, is a system of medicine by clerk. Decisions are not being made by medical professionals but by clerks somewhere deep in the bowels of the insurance bureaucracy. What is particularly frustrating is that they have so organized themselves that it is impossible to establish contact with the people who make the real decisions regarding our health. One can only reach a person who is obviously trained to fend off and divert questions into a labyrinth of uncaring clerks.

Go for it, Bill and Hillary. What you are proposing just has to be better than what I have now.

THOMAS J. MENALO

Whittier

* So Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) sees a need for "some broad-based tax increase" to fund health care reform (May 11). Rostenkowski predicts a $40-billion "hole" by the year 2000 and says, "If Americans want new benefits, they must pay for them."

Excuse me! As I recall, President Clinton is the person requesting reform. I also recall that the driving force behind health reform was to reduce the deficit, not increase it by $40 billion. One more example of how Washington politicians twist the facts to suit their needs and not the needs of the American public.

I, for one, am getting really tired of working to support those who cannot or will not support themselves. I guess the only solution for me would be to quit work, declare bankruptcy and live off others' hard-earned dollars too. Gee, I hope no one else gets this idea. Imagine how that would affect the deficit.

ANN M. DOTY

Venice

* Where exactly are health-care dollars going? An outpatient surgery at St. Vincent Medical Center last fall incurred $4,734 in hospital charges alone. I requested an itemized bill and checked the pharmaceutical and supply charges against the Medispan Average Wholesale Price (AWP). Most big purchasers pay less than AWP. St. Vincent's charges to me were 7.4 to 8.2 times the AWP. This includes charges of $60 a liter for intravenous fluid which wholesales at $2.

Almost all drugs used were generic; I can't blame the drug manufacturers. The physician fees were reasonable. (My and many of my colleagues' income was down one-third in '93). When I asked St. Vincent about their markup, their response was, "That's what we charge everybody." The problem is when you enter the hospital, you're signing a blank check.

DOUGLAS C. CABLE MD

Fountain Valley

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