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Letter: Health Care - Mixed Emotions

I agree with Obama that improvement in our health care system has long been overdue. Few people (of either party) would disagree with that statement. But what concerns most of us is the inefficiency of non-profit (mostly government) groups to run programs. The following agencies, etc: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Postal Service, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are all in deep financial trouble. Can anyone name a well-run efficient agency that we are proud of?

It is an indisputable fact that whenever profit motive is missing efficiency quickly declines. This is nothing new. Here is an example that I lived through. I grew up in Newport News, Virginia. The local shipyard was the largest privately owned shipyard in the world. During WW II they built the battleship Indiana in nine months at a cost to the government of $60 million (which included their profit). Across the harbor was the Norfolk Naval Base and located near it the Navy shipyard. While our shipyard was building the Indiana, the Navy shipyard was building an identical battleship, the Alabama. It took them 12 months and cost $83 million dollars. (As the result of a Federal investigation 3,000 naval shipyard employees were fired. This doesn’t seem to happen today).

Is it worse today than years ago? I don’t know but today there are many more areas where government is involved so the situation in total is probably worse. It is not easy to believe Obama when he says that government, by careful management, can “achieve substantial savings (notably in Medicare and Medicaid) to offset some of the costs of the new system.” Over the years I have heard many a government official express similar objectives but have never seen effective control of escalating costs. Their standard answer when confronted with lack of action is: “It is being investigated.” However no meaningful action ever seems to take place.

If the cost of the new Health Care Program gets too far out of hand it will certainly negatively affect the economic health of our nation. We must hope that some meaningful improvements will be made in existing agencies before incurring further massive debts. I’m normally an optimist; however I am not going to hold my breath on this one.

Theodore Theodorsen