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The HMO Debate

November 13, 1994

On the basis of personal experience, I beg to differ with the claims of Dr. Roger S. Taylor for Secure Horizons, the Medicare HMO operating under Taylor's PacifiCare Health Services, (Letters, Oct. 9) in reference to "The Triumph of Harry and Louise" (by David Ewing Duncan, Sept. 11).

Last winter, my father switched from Medicare to Secure Horizons. That seemed like a good idea, until Dad's health took a dramatic and unexpected downturn in February. Following his hospitalization, we found that he was unable to get the home health care he needed. Secure Horizons provided minimal home visits, and I had to fight to get those.

Whenever I called their customer-service number, I was passed from one person to another or told that the person I really needed to talk to had just gone out, was away on vacation, whatever. Everyone had an excuse, but no one was responsible. My husband and I, both of whom were working, took turns looking after Dad until we were able to organize different living arrangements for him and get him back on Medicare, which provided, without a squabble, the additional health services he required.

If you have the youthfulness and good health of the older people pictured in HMO advertisements, an HMO may be a valid option--for a time. But if you develop chronic health needs, or fear that you will develop them, think twice before giving up Medicare.

Helen Maurer

Mission Viejo

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What we are currently witnessing is an insurance industry that by the way, is present in no other country in the world, charging more for premiums and paying providers less while at the same time intimidating doctors to provide less care--all in the quest for greater profits. Some people have suggested that the great American health-care system has been saved this year by Congress' failure to enact a health bill. To the contrary, it has not; it is currently in decline. Greedy insurance companies are taking their turn at killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Dr. Franklin L. Murphy

Los Angeles

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