Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Letters - Taming Runaway Health Care Costs -

To the Editor:

David Leonhardt, in his May 13 column (”Health Care, a Lesson in Pain,” Economic Scene), is quite right that “the only way to have a sustainable universal health care system is to control costs.” But in analyzing the experts’ testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on how to pay for health care, he did not mention a solution that neither the experts nor the committee wants to consider: major reform of the system.

Runaway costs are due largely to high overhead expenses throughout the system, and to the excessive use of expensive technology. Both of these result from a health care system that is organized like a profit-seeking industry instead of a social service.

If we want health care to be a universal entitlement, it cannot be controlled by market forces and the financial interests of insurers and providers (and the investors who own such a large part of the system).

Some kind of government-regulated single-payer insurance plan and a reorganized nonprofit medical care delivery system may be “off the table” for policy makers right now, but we will never achieve affordable universal coverage without major reform that deals with the real causes of medical inflation.

We don’t need more money; we need a new system.

Arnold S. Relman
Marcia Angell
Cambridge, Mass.

The writers, medical doctors, are former editors in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine.

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