US Health Care Put to the 'Canada' Test

The series on health care, Nov. 18-26, is most informative and I agree with much of it.Part of the problem with the health-care debate comes from confusing who pays the cost of services with the real cost of services to society. The first deals with how we distribute benefits produced by society's resources; the second with how effectively we use these resources. Distribution is determined by who has the financial resources to buy health care. The rich do; the poor do not. This problem is addressed by methods of financial redistribution, i.e., taxing workers to provide government money for Medicare. Generally, redistribution does not result in more total benefits. Thirty-three million Americans have no health insurance, while the Canadian government pays all health-care costs (with money that has been taxed away from some of their citizens). These facts show that the health-care question is one of access and availability, not the relative administrative costs in the two countries. The problem of increasing total benefits is the most important question. Universal access to very few services is worse than lopsided access to vast services - a truth former communist countries are learning. We should, of course, address both access and availability. Confusing the two problems will only make it harder to solve either. R. Webber, W. Long Branch, N.J., Prof. of Economics/Finance, Monmouth College

Regarding the article "Reform Pressure in US Puts Spotlight On Canada," Nov. 25: Canada's government-run health-care system seems attractive, but it is interesting to note that Canada's per capita national debt is about twice that of the United States. This is the problem in recommending out-of-context adaptation of a foreign country's methods and systems. We must take into consideration the cost of such a health-care program when assessing the US's approach to medical care. D. Bradley, Plainfield, N.H.

Traveling US Route 1 What a pleasure to read the series about US Route 1, Nov. 15, 22, 29. One can enjoy the sights, sounds, and even imagine the smells along the way. However, the author, with his thoughts focused on the East Coast route, named Key West, Fla., as the "southernmost" point in the US. Rather, he should have named Key West as the southernmost point in the continental US. The southernmost point in the US is actually in Hawaii. Bob Spragens, Martinez, Calif.

The series on Route 1 is enjoyable, and I am glad to read of individuals who persist with humor and determination in the face of severe challenges. It is hopeful that so much "true grit" persists. Joy Oldemeyer, Oak Harbor, Wash.

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