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Former Editor Assails Health Care Program

By Etan J. Cohen

The American health care system represents a "serious threat to the stability of American business and federal government," said Dr. Arnold S. Relman, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, in a speech before 60 last night at Emerson Hall.

Relman, who is also professor of medicine and social medicine emeritus, attacked the current system for its poor quality and failure to sufficiently cover health care costs. "[The current system] costs much more than we can afford," he said.

Relman said health spending will total nearly $950 billion this year, or $3,600 per capita. This is equivalent to 14.5 percent of the United States' gross national product (GNP), he said.

Corrected for inflation, Relman said, health spending in the U.S. has been increasing six percent per year for the past three decades and, if allowed to continue at this rate, will top $1.7 trillion, or 20 percent of the GNP, by the end of the decade. "What is perfectly clear," he said, "is that we can't continue the way we've been going."

Relman addressed the inadequacy of medical insurance coverage, saying "If I were to have a stroke right insurance would run out" because of the costs of long-term care.

The irony of the current system is that often only the "destitute." who receive federal assistance, can afford long-term care, he said.

"The insurance system we have is ridiculous," he said, calling its failure to provide adequate coverage "irrational and immoral."

According to Relman, the care provided by the current system does not reflect the amount of money invested in it. "Despite all the money we spend, many countries have better health," he said, reflecting that the U.S. spends more on health than any other country.

Turning his attention to the current health care proposals, Relman said the Clinton plan "is the only one with enough details" to be a viable proposal. The other less-developed plans could not be sufficiently analyzed, he said.

Relman said his own proposal calls for a health care tax, the removal of third party insurance and a shift to an organized care delivery system.

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