This letter is in response to the Jan. 1 editorial "Your Next Hospital Bill."
True, hospital costs have risen higher than the overall rate of inflation. Your editorial implies that this is blatantly improper without fair consideration of why or the value provided by hospitals.
Many of the reasons for hospital cost increases are well known: increased pay rates, increased technology, increased costs of fuel, food, medicines, x-ray film, and so forth. Other reasons are less obvious: more red tape and regulations from government, strikes, specialization and physician practice patterns, rising interest rates, and laws that inhibit cost containment.
Comparison of 1978 hospital costs in the District of Columbia with those in suburban Maryland and northern Virginia is grossly misleading. The District of Columbia is hardly a microcosm of the United States or even of this region, and should not be expected to reflect its suburb's hospitals. A few of the unique features of D.C. hospitals include a highly specialized children's hospital that serves the entire region, three fine university hospitals, a public general hospital, much higher malpractive insurance premiums because D.C. has not adopted tort reforms, special taxes on physician's income that encourage many doctors to shift their practices to suburban hospitals, and a very different patient population.
While the hospital industry in the District is different from its neighbors, their dedication to serving their communities at reasonable costs does not differ.