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School vs. Health Costs

October 20, 1994

Re "What If Health Care Were Run Like the Schools?" Commentary, Oct. 10:

Like physicians who just spent millions lobbying Congress, I really do understand Dr. Karen Engberg's fears of Proposition 186, but I suspect that my opposing motives are different than hers. Living in La Jolla, I observe the lifestyles of physicians. Also, my wife is a teacher. Engberg fortuitously chose teachers and education as her scapegoat in the health-care debate.

So let's debate! First, consider that private hospitals charge patients daily what the state pays schools per student for a year in the classroom. Then society demands that teachers try to teach 25-45 active students simultaneously while doctors treat passive patients individually. Also, doctors have a better union (the American Medical Assn.) than teachers, which results in doctors being paid a salary 10 times, or more, that of teachers.

It's obvious that children of the affluent do well in either private or public schools. It is unfortunate for both society and schools that all children are not blessed with good homes and future horizons.

I pose the following question for Engberg: Would the quality of public schools rise if privately managed by the AMA, or would their high cost have everyone scrambling for a $5,200-a-year school? Another question: Will global competition force Americans to seek affordable medical treatment abroad?

ROGER G. NEWELL

La Jolla

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