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    "When many cures are offered for a disease, it means the disease is not curable" -Anton Chekhov

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    Monday, January 02, 2006

    New York Letters: Today's New York Times has some good, astute letters to the editors today. First, insight into the South Korean cloning scandal:

    The scientific scandal involving Dr. Hwang Woo Suk of Seoul National University raises another issue with very serious implications.

    The article states that Dr. Hwang's "research on stem cells and cloning propelled him to international stardom." Such "stardom" is not possible without the complicity of the news media.

    The media don't create outsized egos in all-too-human scientists, but they feed them. This "cult of personality" is not benign. It perverts science. It is particularly insidious in forensic science, where the media-anointed "experts" become unassailable and testify with someone's life and liberty in the balance.

    The measure of accomplishment in science is the long-term respect of qualified peers, not media glorification.

    Exactly. If the media scrutinized the claims of scientists and researchers with half the zeal they scrutinize CEO's and [some] politicians, fewer would grasp so meanly at glory.

    Then, there are several responses to Paul Krugman's take on healthcare in the United States. His solution is to have government take over. Readers disagree:

    Paul Krugman proposes that "to get health reform right," decisions about which treatments are provided should be entrusted to the public sector.

    While the power of the government to intrude on the doctor-patient relationship might solve budgetary problems, Mr. Krugman's proposal would no doubt result in decreased options for patients. If this prescription were followed, we would ultimately have a one-size-fits-all, Wal-Mart-style health care system.

    Whatever the conflicts and biases of physicians, their underlying priority is the welfare of patients. The priority of a public-sector system that controls health care decisions would be budgets, not patients.

    Another points out that we already have government-driven healthcare:

    Paul Krugman calls for government to be the referee in our enormously expensive health care system, but doesn't mention that government already makes most of the calls through Medicare price controls affecting hospitals and doctors.

    These decisions affect much more than the roughly 50 percent of health care provided by government programs, because Medicare has provisions that limit physicians' ability to care for non-Medicare patients of Medicare age and because private insurance companies adopt Medicare fee schedules.

    It is a mistake to think that even more government intervention is the key to solving a crisis that has been made worse by an already ambitious system of government price controls.

    (Since insurance companies base their payments to doctors and hospitals as a percentage of Medicare's reimbursement, the fact is we already have a system controlled by the government.)

    And who trusts politicians?

    Paul Krugman argues that "ordinary citizens" do not "have enough medical expertise" to make their own decisions about their health care. But he does not explain why the government would be any better.

    If individuals don't know enough about their own bodies to decide among the many doctors, drugs and treatments available, why would a bunch of politicians?

    Which is one reason health savings accounts are a better option:

    Paul Krugman dismisses health savings accounts, but my personal experience suggests that they do indeed cut down on frivolous visits to the doctor - for instance, when my child has a cold.

    My high-deductible insurance policy, about 50 percent cheaper than a traditional one, protects me from big-ticket items.

    If every American were enrolled in this system, health care consumption and insurance premiums would drop even further, and perhaps the government would have a role in helping the poor pay for these plans.

    He's got a point.

    posted by Sydney on 1/02/2006 02:02:00 PM 0 comments


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