In the article "Providers applaud latest White House budget plan" (Dec. 11, 1995, p. 2), the comparison of the Republican and White House Medicare plans contains a significant omission. It didn't acknowledge medical savings accounts, which the GOP plan includes. MSAs are the only reason free-market advocates support the GOP Medicare proposal.
The other Medicare reforms contain more rules and regulations for third-party payers. Traditional Medicare continues with fee-for-service medicine that never made sense. There, the patient-customer gets "free" healthcare while the government forks over the money. This is a sure prescription for cost overruns. Subcontracting Medicare out to managed care makes sense for patients who prefer to turn their choice of physicians and hospitals over to insurance administrators. Many Medicare patients prefer to make their own choices.
MSAs allow those choices by cutting out third-party payers. They do so by having the government turn the money over to patients. Because patients pay, they're in control. This allows them to reject the bad providers and choose the good, which causes providers to compete and continually improves quality. Because Medicare recipients can keep the savings at year-end, they also will strive to hold down costs. MSAs are the only part of Medicare that will give patients value.
BERT A. LOFTMAN, M.D.