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Healthcare and the profit motive

March 31, 2009

Re "Help for healthcare reform," editorial, March 27

Health insurers insisting they have the "same objectives as consumer groups, doctors, hospitals and the government" is disingenuous. Most insurers are for-profit companies whose primary goal is to pay high dividends to shareholders.

Healthcare is essential to the welfare of all Americans. No portion of medical insurance premiums or other patient payments should be managed to generate a profit for shareholders, because that creates conflicts of interest between the patient and the insurer and its directors.

The healthcare industry complains that it cannot compete with government. Government is not the most efficient provider around, but at least its primary mandate isn't returning profits to its owners. A nonprofit healthcare system can return the maximum amount possible to direct patient care, using only a reasonable amount to cover claims processing and administration.

Robert L. Schaffer



Perhaps the lobbyists for private industry, those fearsome advocates of competition, can explain how their opposition to competition for the healthcare dollar with Medicare (with its low overhead) is consistent with their idea of a real marketplace?

And perhaps they can also explain how their idea of the marketplace should make it acceptable that the consumer be mandated to purchase policies that make so much of their premium dollars disappear into the private insurance company morass of advertising, outrageous executive compensation and shareholder dividends?

Alfred M. Sils

Woodland Hills


Insurance companies are free to sell insurance to those with expensive medical needs at the same rate as other policyholders. That is a business decision. Of course that will necessarily increase premiums for those who now have insurance.

You are correctly concerned about mandatory insurance. Once everyone is required to buy it, politicians will not be able to resist adding even more coverage requirements than we have today, to serve the high-cost providers that are their political clients.

There are things the government could stop doing that would bring down the cost of insurance. Instead, the only way the political class will be able to provide insurance to those without it will be to make it more expensive for everyone else.

Richard E. Ralston

Newport Beach

The writer is executive director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.

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