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Insurance Vouchers: All Would Benefit

April 21, 2002

I agree with your April 16 editorial on the health insurance crisis, but I would take this one step further: The escalating cost of health care affects not only the working poor but also those who are on the brink of retirement but not yet old enough to receive Medicare.

My husband and I have maintained an individual health-insurance plan for several years so that we would be certain of health-care coverage when my husband decided to retire a few years early. Just two months ago our premiums were raised by over 60% and, what's worse, our benefits were reduced. This was the second increase and reduction in benefits within nine months.

We may not have been categorized as the "working poor," but now we are among the "insurance poor," paying out more than $8,000 a year with huge deductibles and co-payments of up to 40%.

Sandy Brown

Oxnard

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It is time for the state government to take action before our Titanic health-care nonsystem sinks. I have read the nine proposals to expand coverage, been to one of the public symposiums and examined the economic and qualitative analyses. You state that fixing the problem will "cost money." Yet the most striking thing to me is that the three major overhauls, all single-payer plans, not only fix our health-care system properly but also save between $4 billion and $8 billion as compared with current spending.

Those on the Internet can view the proposals, analyses and other documents at http://www.health careoptions.ca.gov.

Peter Conn

Santa Barbara

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Sponsoring health insurance through employers is a relic of wage controls from half a century ago. People who are not employed still need health care, and the system is difficult to buy into individually, particularly if you or a family member has ever been sick.

What if we built a voucher program? Taxes would be raised slightly to include the cost of a minimal health insurance policy. Everyone would be entitled to a voucher good for a bare-bones health policy, which he could take to the insurer of his choice. Insurers might be asked to offer a choice of a high-deductible PPO-type plan or a very basic HMO for this voucher. Then employers or individuals could upgrade this plan if they chose.

Insurance companies would get larger participation. Doctors, hospitals and clinics would have fewer uncollected debts from the uninsured, which are then paid by the rest of us. Children, the self-employed, retirees, part-time and temporary workers and small-business employees would all be covered by this system.

It would cover people between jobs, people working for new businesses and parents who want to stay home with the kids. Taxes would go up slightly, but employers and individuals would realize an equivalent savings in their health premiums.

Elaine Lindelef

Glendale

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