A class action suit against health maintenance organizations (HMOs) is part of the problem, not part of the solution [Business, Dec. 14].

HMOs developed because government policies discourage people from buying their own health insurance. Thanks to unfair tax laws, employers can deduct 100 percent of health insurance costs, but ordinary individuals cannot. The result is the somebody-else-should-pay-for-it mentality prevalent in medicine today.

Patients don't shop for health insurance the way they shop for auto insurance or televisions, and doctors don't answer to patients in the private marketplace either. Instead, doctors shift costs to insurance companies and Medicare (which have fought back by limiting payments to doctors and by managing care).

No wonder health care is so expensive: Everybody wants it, but nobody wants to pay for it.

Politicians take pride in programs such as Medicare and, more recently, the Kennedy-Kassebaum law, designed to remove the supposed stench of business from medicine. Yet look what we're getting in its place.

Suing HMOs for doing what they do will drive medical costs up further. When will Americans learn that personal freedom and responsibility -- in the medical marketplace, just as in any other marketplace -- is the only moral, rational solution to the growing health care crisis?


Chevy Chase

The writer is a health-care provider.