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Beilenson, Sybert and the Health Care Issue

October 23, 1994

Having read the respective articles on proposed health care reform of 24th District congressional candidates Rich Sybert and Anthony Beilenson (Sept. 25), I was struck by the wide gulf that exists between them.

While Mr. Beilenson purports to espouse a "go-slow approach," he is one of the co-sponsors of HR 1200, the legislation that would impose a "single-payer" system like that which exists in Canada. Mr. Beilenson avoids any mention of this fact in his article, even though it's the centerpiece of his proposals on health care reform. The likelihood is that he fails to mention his co-sponsorship of single-payer legislation because he has some concern that 24th District voters might not share his view that a single-payer (the federal government) system is the answer.

It's hard to figure how Mr. Beilenson ostensibly embraces a "cautious approach" while proposing a single-payer system of socialized medicine that could not be more radical. In all events, Mr. Beilenson should make it plain to 24th District voters that he has taken a leadership role in advancing single-payer legislation, instead of proposing in his article literally nothing other than caution.

JOHN P. DOYLE

Tarzana

* On the topic of "legal reform," Richard Sybert's commentary, "How Congress Should Operate on Health Care," (Sept. 25) is factually inaccurate, as well as misguided.

Sybert claims that "conspicuously absent from the Administration's (health proposals) is any suggestion of reform of the legal system."

In fact, much to the displeasure of consumer groups, the President's health plan would have restricted medical malpractice victims from going to court against negligent providers; allowed negligent physicians to hold onto money owed victims and pay in installments; limited incentives for plaintiff attorneys to take medical malpractice cases by restricting their fees but not defense attorney fees; and forced taxpayers to pay for negligent physicians' mistakes.

For those of us concerned about deterring medical malpractice, at a time when Harvard medical experts report that medical negligence has become the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States, the failure of these anti-consumer "legal reforms" is no disappointment.

Similar restrictions in California have denied injured patients in the San Fernando Valley legal representation and fair compensation for their losses, while clearly not reducing the state's health care costs.

A Panorama City woman with severe jaw damage and a cancerous infection due to an HMO's misdiagnosis and refusal to treat her has been unable to find a lawyer to represent her due to state legal restrictions. But the woman has carried on the case alone while the federal government, which has recognized the injuries caused by the medical negligence as a disability, pays for her medical care and basic needs through taxpayer-funded programs because the woman can no longer work.

Similarly, a newborn at a Woodland Hills HMO facility was crippled because, despite his mother's warning about her "high-risk" delivery, no doctor was present during the birth, only a nurse-midwife who lacked the skill to guide the newborn out. The crippled child, due to state caps on a victim's compensation and barriers to prosecution, received only $250,000 for life. More troubling to the parents, the HMO has continued its practice of not assigning doctors to births undeterred--with dozens of other children seriously injured through the same circumstances.

This is the declining quality of care Americans can expect if the "legal reform" agenda of Sybert, and of Clinton, is enacted.

JAMIE COURT

Los Angeles

Court is director of Consumers For Quality Care.

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