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Medicare Reform in Congress

June 11, 1996

I was surprised to see House Speaker Newt Gingrich's letter (June 6), which accuses Democrats of "demagoguery and inaction" on the issue of Medicare.

For more than a year now, I have been urging the speaker to remove Medicare from the highly politicized budget process, so that we can reform the program solely for its own sake. That is the only way we can ensure seniors and their families that Medicare will not be used as a piggy bank to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. A new book by David Maraniss and Michael Weisskopf is merely the latest documentary evidence that the speaker chose his Medicare cuts arbitrarily, based on what he needed to pay for those tax breaks. Yet instead of coming clean on this issue, the speaker resorts to the rhetoric of blame and shame.

It has now been well-documented that some leading Republicans had never even heard of the Medicare Trustees' Report before they needed a way to justify their deep Medicare cuts. So it is a sad spectacle to see the speaker and his colleagues using last week's report of Medicare's difficulties to push a plan that would raid Medicare, not save it.

Let's not forget that this is the same Republican Party that mocked Medicare as "socialized medicine" in the 1960s, fought desperately against its original passage and cast a dozen votes against it in this Congress alone.

REP. RICHARD A. GEPHARDT

House Minority Leader

D-Mo., Washington

* Why are we avoiding the truth when we talk about the woes of Medicare financing? Why are HMOs making a bundle and Medicare is about to go bankrupt? Particularly when we know that administrative costs of the insurance companies are five to 10 times that of Medicare.

The answer is simple. The HMOs cherry-pick the young population, and the government is stuck with the high-risk older population and the disabled.

We need to institute a national health program based on the Canadian model; remove private insurance companies from health care; monitor health services at the local level with great stringency; keep hospitals and doctors honest.

SIMON A. SAYRE MD

Ojai

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