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Finding a Free-Market Fix for American Health Care

The author of the opinion-page column "Single-Payer System Guarantees Health Care for Less," Sept. 11, joins those calling for Canadian-style national health insurance. He asserts that such a reform "would save the US $67 billion in administrative costs alone." But I believe he is barking up a very wrong tree.The notion of megabuck administrative cost "savings" associated with nationalizing health insurance reflects a fundamental misconception. Think of analogous "savings" achieved by nationalizing, say, air travel and eliminating the "waste" of multi-airline competition. Picture a monopoly airline managed by federal employees - no costly advertising, no travel agent commissions, and low-tech, low-maintenance airliners. Efficiency would be further pursued by cutting flight frequency to assure full flights, an d eliminating out-of-the-way stops. Similarly, the billions in "savings" we are supposed to get with Canadian-style reform represent the sacrifice of essential features that make an industry efficient and dynamically responsive to consumer wants. The US system does very definitely require fixing. But, considering how socialist economies are crashing elsewhere around the globe these days, it seems strange that some Americans are keen to emulate Canada's free-care, tax-supported, government-controlled - in a word, socialist - system. Americans will have to be convinced that competition, manifestly successful and effective in other industries, can guide sellers to produce both efficient and high-quality medical care. Stuart G. Schmid, McLean, Va.

Human rights in Yugoslavia Thank you for the editorial "Onus on Serbia," Sept. 6. The minority Serbs do have legitimate concerns about their rights within an independent Croatia. But the way to best ensure their rights is through internationally monitored negotiations, the kind the breakaway republics have been advocating for months. The Army-sponsored attempts by Serbian guerrillas to partition Croatia will only serve to make the situation worse for everyone. Moreover, as your editorial correctly points out, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's record of dealing with the Albanian minority in Kosovo (not to mention his brutalization of Serbs who disagree with him) suggests that he is not much interested in anyone's civil rights. It should be noted that only a third of Croatia's Serbs live in the so-called Krajina region that Serbian guerrillas want to annex to Serbia. How will their actions help the remaining two-thirds? Moreover, some of the towns the Serbs have been attacking have a population that is 20 percent Serbian or less. What kind of society are these militants preparing, if the will of a well-armed minority is allowed to brutalize the rest of the population into submission? Dubranka A. Romano, Austin, Texas

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US butter and Russian guns I fully agree with the editorial "Yellow Light on Aid," Sept 5, which suggests the US help Russia solve their food shortage problem and to use ingenuity in so doing. That ingenuity should include selling grain to the Soviets at a price that reflects a decent profit to American farmers and requiring Russia to sharply reduce military spending prior to US commitment to sell them food. Russia badly needs food, and the US is the only nation with sufficient quantities available. But let's not continue the idiotic practice of depleting US soil and water resources in order to sell grain cheap while allowing Russia to continue to spend billions on defense. Doug Wildin, Hutchinson, Kan.

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