As a former CEO of one of the nation's largest HMOs, I was struck by two articles in the Nov. 16 edition of your paper. These articles illustrate fundamental problems in the American health care system and the way in which the media compound those problems.

The front-page article "Md. Hospital Facing Loss of Accreditation," which described the possible loss of accreditation by Shady Grove Hospital, is best summed up by these sentences:

"Shady Grove spokesman Robert Jepson . . . said officials can scarcely comprehend how they could fall so far so fast. The hospital started yesterday with the highest of seven ratings, accreditation with commendation, and finished with the second-lowest, preliminary nonaccreditation."

How indeed? Perhaps it had something to do with the irresponsible leaking of confidential medical staff discussions to a Post reporter, who then wrote an inflammatory story. In typical response, the health care system reacted to the story with the regulatory equivalent of piling on.

Overnight, Shady Grove Hospital went from a respected community hospital to an institution battling for its life.

The article "Family May Owe More to Sued HMO" [Business] continued a history of your paper's own piling on in its coverage of managed care. In this instance, we have a tragic accident that severely disabled a young woman.

In their lawsuit, the young woman's parents contend that their HMO should pay for two years of her education at a prep school, almost $300,000 for the parents' time in attending to their daughter and $1.8 million in business profits they claimed to have lost while caring for their daughter.

That the parents could make such an argument--much less that the court would seriously entertain it--is the height of selfishness when 44 million Americans are without health insurance.

Health insurance in this country is not a right but a privilege--one that is denied to 17 percent of Americans.

--Jeff D. Emerson