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Wrong Rx for healthcare

October 10, 2008

Re "Innovate to cut health costs," Opinion, Oct. 6

Shirley Svorny deplores government regulation of hospitals and medical professionals in one paragraph and in another claims that the reasons for rising healthcare cost are the lobbyists for the same institutions. She favors competition between hospitals and retail clinics with semi-professional staff to diagnose and treat the public. In other words, deregulate the entire industry to reduce health costs to the consumer.

Where has Svorny been during the last two weeks? Excessive deregulation, in part, brought this country's financial institutions to their knees and created havoc in the rest of the world.

She conveniently left out two major ingredients, namely the health insurance companies that are callously purging chronically ill persons from their rolls and the pharmaceutical industry, whose obscene profits fit well into today's "free market" economy.

The bottom line is the fact that about 48 million people in the U.S., almost half of them children, cannot afford health insurance. This is a scandal that other civilized nations would never allow to happen.

Peter Weisbrod

Laguna Beach

Svorny makes some good points, while oversimplifying her case for deregulation. The alarming growth in healthcare costs is not sustainable, and we must look at innovative ways to cut costs while maintaining quality of care.

But what we have in Medicaid is an underfunded program for the poorest Californians, not an example of the basic economics of universal coverage.

Government can provide some innovative solutions. Here in Los Angeles -- where L.A. Care, a local public agency, competes with a for-profit health plan in Medicaid managed care -- we've shown that healthy competition in a government-funded program can contain costs, increase quality and maintain stable physician networks. Our experience can be used as one model.

Reviewing the effectiveness of costly regulations could also help, but don't forget the good that regulation does, as the current financial crisis reminds us.

Howard A. Kahn

Los Angeles

The writer is CEO of L.A. Care Health Plan

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