Egocentric ViewMickey Kaus' op-ed article ("HMO Phobia...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 09, 1993

Egocentric View

Mickey Kaus' op-ed article ("HMO Phobia," March 12) is a nice example of the kind of studied omission of information so useful in maintaining the status quo for those who benefit most from it.

Mr. Kaus argues that because we are a rich nation, we therefore should be spending more on health care. It's a natural phenomenon, a correlation postulated by economists, according to Mr. Kaus.

There is no mention of the fact that nations such as Japan and Germany, which are nearly as rich as we, are spending only a third to a half of what we do in America.

If the correlation to which Mr. Kaus refers held, the Japanese might be spending 12 to 13 percent of their GDP on health care, compared to the 14 to 15 percent spent by the U.S. Of course, the Japanese are just a band of misfits who don't stay home when they're sick or fight cancer "aggressively."

Nor does Mr. Kaus bother himself with the fact that, despite the disproportionate share of GDP Americans do spend on health, our system is still far from being the best. By such measures as infant mortality, longevity and others, many nations provide better health care than does the U.S. at a fraction of our outlays.

Maybe Mr. Kaus feels he, as a well-to-do American, is getting the best health care available, as well he might; but as a nation, we are still served by a second-rate system.

Then there is the issue -- again not mentioned by Mr. Kaus -- of those 35 to 40 million people, 15 percent or more of our population, who are not even able to get access to the health care system because they cannot afford health insurance.

While Mr. Kaus wants to be able to choose a doctor, preferably one without a Germanic accent, who can properly diagnose his chronic fatigue syndrome, 35 million people face the prospect of getting pitched out into the hospital parking lot when they try to get emergency room treatment because they have no insurance.

In light of the facts he has so conveniently omitted, Mr. Kaus' comparison of $15,000 spent extending someone's life for a year (forget the wild understatement of the figure) with buying a new automobile is ludicrous.

It might more appropriately be framed by asking whether it is worthwhile, say, using such money to provide basic prenatal care for a number of poor women who otherwise wouldn't receive it. Yes, the AIDS victim's additional year of life was certainly worth an incalculable amount to him, but is this really a rational expenditure for our society when 15 percent of our population cannot even get access to basic medical care?

It is the smug, me-first complacency of people like Mr. Kaus, worried that changes might make life a little less convenient for them or force them to recognize the real costs of medical care, that will dog the reform to our health care system that is so urgently needed.

Cynthia A. Lake

Towson

Legislators

It's all the media's fault. . .

If you're accused of stealing, you absolutely didn't do it. Besides, nobody would have noticed if the news media hadn't reported it. If you open your big mouth and offend others, it's all a big misunderstanding created by the media.

And now we learn that some members of the General Assembly's Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee have blasted journalists ''for stirring up the public and planting doubts about politicians' integrity.''

Never mind that legislators have awarded college scholarships to children of cronies and supporters, including students in families earning six-figure incomes. That's irrelevant. If the news media hadn't kicked up such a fuss, the public would never have noticed -- which appears to be the real problem.

Once again, the members of our General Assembly just don't seem to get it. They really don't understand how terribly &L frustrated and angry we ordinary folks are.

My wife and I won't pay enough Maryland income tax in our lifetimes to cover the $120,000 that just one senator has to hand out in scholarship money in any way he or she chooses. That tells you something about our annual incomes.

We had a wallet-wrenching struggle to put two of our children through college without any scholarship assistance. But we did it.

What our esteemed senators also apparently are not aware of is that government officials since President Washington's administration have lashed out at the news media for uncovering the less admirable activities, the waste and the mismanagement of those officials.

Yet sedition laws, denials and deflected blame have not stopped reporters for doing what the public wants them to do: Shed daylight on the black hole of public expenditures so that we can make our voices heard.

And that's another thing some public officials don't seem to want to know. We will make our voices heard.

Andrew M. Sherling

Baltimore

Pregnant Irony

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