Friday, May 05, 2006

Charles Ornstein, Tracy Weber And Their Kaiser Stories

The L.A. Times provides a great public service through the articles on hospitals and their shortcomings by Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber.

The two paired up to do a series of articles on the woeful Martin Luther King Hospital in South Los Angeles, they have dealt with derelictions in other hospitals, and this week they have extended their coverage to the Kaiser Permanente health care system.

The news that people have died because Kaiser grossly mishandled kidney transplants should shock everyone in California, especially the many thousands who rely on Kaiser for their health care. The news that people in desperate need of new kidneys wait for long periods, or never get them at all, due to the bureaucratic processes at Kaiser is shocking. This is a system which clearly is not doing its duty to its clients.

And it is particularly damning that we read at the end of today's piece by Ornstein and Weber, "Kaiser doctors and administrators have provided misleading or inaccurate information to The Times several times in the last week."

One of the strongest arguments for development of a single-payer health care system in the U.S. is that private enterprise handling of these vital services is a mess.
It is by no means confined to hospitals. We also read that Blue Cross of California uses only 80% of each dollar received in premiums to pay for providing health care. This is down a percentage point from last year. So while Blue Cross pays its executives exorbitant salaries, it is shortchanging its customers. How much better it would be such insurance systems were in public hands.

I saw Ornstein and Weber yesterday as part of a visit to the Times, and was again impressed by their demeanor. They do not at all fit the stereotypes of journalists so often peddled by the far right. They are neither wild-haired nor tempermental. They are simply doing their jobs. But they are doing them with great diligence and determination to serve the public.

Newspapers come in for much criticism, but, for all their faults, newspapers frequently perform valuable public service. Certainly, we have a lot to thank Ornstein and Weber for. They, in the words of Admiral The Lord Nelson in another context, are doing their duty.

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