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Busting Health-Care Costs, Not Budgets

As one who is quoted in the opinion piece "Buster of State Budgets," July 29, about Congressman Henry Waxman, I must take issue with the comments associated with my name, in particular, and with the thesis of the piece, in general. The quoted statement is taken out of context and does not account for the high regard I have for Mr. Waxman's legislative abilities and personal traits.I disagree with the author's conclusion that Waxman had manipulated the legislative process and single-handedly pushed the states over the financial brink by requiring them to spend money on their Medicaid programs for the poor. The author notes correctly that Medicaid costs are increasing rapidly, but then implies that "mandates" enacted by Congress at Waxman's urging are the major source of the increase. Even the Bush administration disagrees on this point. Over the past decade, the Office of Management and Budget estimates that 59 percent of increased Medicaid spending was due to health-care inflation and another 19 percent was due to increased enrollment. Mr. Waxman has a long record of trying to contain health-care costs. In 1979, Waxman led the unsuccessful fight for President Carter's hospital cost-containment initiative. More recently, he introduced health-care reform legislation H.R. 2535, which contains cost-containment provisions that define the middle ground between a "single payer" system and the unfettered market in which we operate today. Henry Waxman's mandates have not busted any state budgets but instead have helped improve the quality of life of countless numbers of poor women, children, elderly, and disabled people. US Rep. Bill Richardson (D) of New Mexico

What is this - yet another "let-us-hate-government-with-its-evil-taxes" type of article? We ought to be ashamed. The recently increased pressure on state budgets due to rising Medicaid costs has had a positive effect on the debate over health-care costs. Even the author concedes: "The pressure [Waxman] put on state budgets has brought the nation's governors to the table to talk about fashioning a new national health-care plan in hopes of cutting costs. Once there, they found businessmen, labor union leaders, and physicians ready to talk for the same reason. That ... has been Waxman's goal all along." Hooray for Representative Waxman! The haughty health-care industry, with its annual double-digit inflation, despite the condition of the country, has been gouging us as long as anyone can remember. What will bring it under control? Caps on costs initiated through the grass-roots efforts of state governments and wage earners who have tired of escalating heath-insurance expenditures. John D. McBride, Davenport, Iowa

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The article attributes power, beyond our capacity to imagine, to Congressman Waxman of California. It's grossly unfair, but perhaps it serves the author's nefarious political purpose to assign all blame to Waxman and ignore the bipartisan support! Russell W. Davidson, Redford, Mich.

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