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Health Insurance Reform

November 16, 2002

Re "A Loud 'Yes' on Health Care," editorial, Nov. 11: The Times asks rhetorically, "Do ordinary people want action on the health-care problems that politicians love to ignore?" You bet we do. But not by taxing citizens. Rather, the action we want is stopping the ever-rising "swelling immigrant population" mentioned later in the editorial that is causing the state's health-care meltdown. Too bad California's massive congressional delegation loves to ignore the problems caused by mass immigration. As a result we face a health-care crisis with no end in sight.

Wanda Gomez-Berger

El Cerrito

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Guess when this was written: "In the U.S. we have had a long experience with sickness insurance both on a nonprofit and commercial basis. Both forms have been inadequate with respect to the protection they furnish, and the latter -- commercial insurance -- has in addition been too expensive for people of small means."

It has been said that Americans will try everything wrong before they try the right thing. That's the story of health care: incremental change with no reform, Band-Aids without a cure, attending to only those problems that require the least political cost and a fundamentalist faith in the marketplace.

But health care doesn't respond to marketplace principles. How can supply and demand, or competition between providers, determine the cost of health care when government subsidizes 50% of it? Does anyone truly shop around for the lowest-cost health care? Drugs and medical technology that provide only a 5% improvement in health can be 100% more expensive.

We now spend more than $1.3 trillion on health care and yet, in a recent comparison with 12 other Western countries, the quality of our care ranked second to last. The number of Americans without health insurance, now at 45 million, will continue to increase. More Americans will have to choose between medication and paying for groceries. And more will go without the health care they deserve -- until we eventually adopt a single-payer national system. Our present market-driven nonsystem, as former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine Dr. Arnold Relman has said, "has no incentive to support a common social good."

The quote above was written more than 65 years ago by the committee that created Social Security -- and deliberately excluded health insurance for all.

Thomas Robischon

Los Angeles

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