ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE FOR DEFICIT DISEASE
I am much relieved by Robert Kuttner's "What's causing the deficit disease? Health care" (Economic Viewpoint, Nov. 21). All this time I thought that the deficit was due to billions spent for pork and wasteful and unnecessary projects--not to mention the flight of good-paying manufacturing jobs that allow people to pay income taxes.
It's nice to know that all we have to do to eliminate the deficit is reform Medicare. Or is Kuttner just another liberal who hasn't gotten the message?
Kuttner is right. We do need health-care reform. But giving government control will not help. The problem started when government allowed corporations, but not individuals, to deduct medical insurance premiums as a business expense. This gave the medical industry a third-party payment system and the right to prescribe and charge with no concern about costs. If Kuttner wants a simple solution, have Congress make medical insurance premiums taxable to either corporations or individuals.
Harlan A. Bentzinger
Robert Kuttner's terse and succinct commentary on the root cause of the deficit--health care--is all well and good. President Clinton knows this. All that's needed now is to convince the new Republican Congress of the facts.
Robert Kuttner has the right diagnosis but the wrong prescription. Yes, health-care costs contribute significantly to the deficit, and something must be done. No, universal health care is not the answer. It will only degrade the world's best health care and do little to reduce costs.
While Medicare and Medicaid costs are growing rapidly, health-care fraud and abuse are growing faster than total costs and account for about 10% of the nation's near-trillion-dollar annual health-care bill. Kuttner believes the way to eliminate waste in the system is for everyone to be in the same system. This is simply not the case.
New technologies effectively detect and ultimately prevent many forms of fraud. Soon, these systems will even detect the leading cause of fraud--billing for services not rendered. As companies implement software systems that detect fraud before providers are paid, 3% to 5% of total health-care costs will be saved each year.
Stephen D. Savas
HealthCare Fraud Prevention Corp.
Newport Beach, Calif.