Congress Recognizes the Need to Streamline

As one of the original authors of the proposal to establish a Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, I must take issue with a point raised in the front page article "Facing Criticism, Congress Tries to Reform Itself," March 30.

The article indicates that the Joint Committee was "another initiative launched last week." In fact, the initiative was launched last July, well before the current spate of major and minor scandals in the House that have contributed to public dissatisfaction with this institution. The article leaves the impression that the bipartisan proposal is a response to those scandals. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have long been concerned about the capacity of Congress, as presently organized, to dea l effectively with the nation's problems. Our proposal emerged from that concern.

Our press conference on March 25, was called to update the public on the status of our proposal and to announce that a majority of the Senate and nearly a majority of the House had agreed to cosponsor our effort. We are hopeful that both houses will act shortly on the measure. Rep. Bill Gradison (R), Washington An answer to health care?

In the Opinion page article "A Health Plan for America," April 6, the author advocates delinking health-care benefits from the workplace. It is interesting to note that the example he cites to demonstrate the superiority of a consumer-choice health-benefits system is the employer-sponsored Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

The author calls the link between health-care benefits and the workplace "one of the great anomalies of modern life." Does he also place in this category employer-sponsored life insurance, disability insurance, and accident insurance? Businesses adopted these programs over the years because they found the benefits in employee peace of mind outweighed their cost. Any effort to rebuild the health-benefits system must include peace of mind as one of its pillars, in addition to "choice and competition." Eric Klieber, Cleveland Hights, Ohio

While it is true that "only health benefits are tied to the job," the proposal does little to untie this link. Unless full health-care payment coverage is completely disengaged from employment and made universally available, those without jobs, as well as those with employment which cannot provide these benefits, will still go without.

What is really at issue, however, is the escalating cost of health care. A plan which mandates care by a primary-care physician, usually a family doctor, with opportunity for referrals when required, will reduce health-care costs. How the payment is covered is a secondary issue. Let us address the root causes of cost escalation. Robert Oldham, Doswell, Va. Elvis or James?

The editorial "Elvis: the Legend, the Stamp," March 17, questions the decision of the United States Postal Service to issue a postage stamp honoring Elvis Presley after a vote on two portraits, one of which shows him when his "career was about to crash from pills, alcohol...."

Back in 1989, and again in 1991, I wrote the Postal Service recommending that the father of the US Constitution and prime mover behind the American federal system of government be commemorated on the bicentennial of the drafting - or else, the ratification - of the Bill of Rights, which Congressman James Madison had initially drafted and introduced into the 1st Congress. Displaying apparent ignorance of the fact that Madison did anything of note before his election as president, the Postal Service reject ed the idea, asserting that President Madison had already appeared on several postage stamps.

Presley or Madison? Is it any wonder that our friends throughout the world are becoming increasingly anxious about the apparent decline of moral leadership? John O. Sutter, San Rafael, Calif.

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