The Post's editorial {Feb. 7} concerning the Oregon legislature's decision no longer to cover most organ transplants for the poor is most disturbing. The ease with which The Post accepts the argument that resources are severely limited needs to be challenged. There is no evidence that other state programs -- agricultural development, highway upkeep, what have you -- are more important or are being carried out in such a productive manner that savings could not be made, savings that might be diverted to other uses, such as organ transplants.

The Post lauds the Oregon lawmakers for making the best of a bad situation. Ironically, The Post maintains that they didn't "dodge or pretend that there was a simple way out." I would argue that they did exactly that.

Are Oregon's health-care resources limited? Where is the evidence? There is none. Of course there is a finite limit to what society can spend for health care -- just as there is a limit to what we can spend for food, housing and all other resources. But with society currently increasing spending on advertising, alcohol, tobacco and entertainment at a higher rate than health spending, clearly we are nowhere near the limit of a fair and just society's ability to fund health care for its citizens.

If, as The Post says, the Oregon lawmakers dealt with this problem "rationally and carefully," I fear for the other needy citizens of that state, particularly the elderly, who arguably use up more of our precious resources than they create or can logically be expected to put back into the system. Yes, choices need to be made, "rationally and carefully," but Oregon's choice was both simple and unthinkable for a people as rich as we Americans. The money is there -- and so should be the will to spend it fairly and justly for our citizens -- especially those in need.

Further, is Oregon taxed beyond its limit to pay? I seriously doubt that it is. There is no state sales tax in Oregon, although such a tax exists in many other states.

The constant drumbeat of "deficit mania" has already taken a disastrous toll on our national health-care system -- especially on Medicare. As a consequence, the medical/technological juggernaut we take for granted as being "the finest in the world" is in such critical condition that a few years from now a patient entering the health-care system may well find that the services and care he or she assumed would be there are no longer available.

Before opting for a public policy of rationing, as has happened in Oregon, we need to undertake a public debate on two questions: the first is whether we have really reached the limit of how much high-tech health-care taxpayers are able to finance. If we have reached that limit, the second question is who should make the decisions on what care is rationed and how it is rationed. My own view is that government is not able to make those decisions in a way that provides for the cases that should be exceptions to a rationing policy. In Oregon, for example, someone should have the power to grant an exception to Donna Arneson, a 36-year-old single parent who needs a liver transplant. The medical profession should be involved in that kind of decision.

Since The Post editorial appeared, the money has been raised to finance the liver transplant for Arneson, and she will travel to a hospital in Texas for the procedure. This is good news; however, we still have a responsibility to ask whether it is wise to replace a societal obligation with private philanthropy encouraged by television and print coverage of these cases. -- Michael D. Bromberg The writer is executive director of the Federation of American Health Systems.