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Cut tough talk on billing practices

TIM MURPHY, Governor Romney's policy director, has said that hospitals should be more aggressive in their billing practices and use all legal options to collect from ''recalcitrants" (''Romney aide targets debt at hospitals," Page A1, May 18.)

There are four flaws in the administration's claims:

The administration does not take into account the patients' ability to pay. Punishing patients who need healthcare and cannot afford to pay for it by placing liens on their homes and garnishing their wages is not the answer.

It fails to recognize that hospitals charge the uninsured, who have the least ability to pay, the highest rates for medical care, often two to three times what insurers have to pay.

The administration's comments let employers off the hook. Employers have to take responsibility for failing to offer coverage to their employees or only offering coverage with unaffordable deductibles.

And, most important, the comments fail to recognize what every patient knows -- that healthcare is not a luxury. Hospitals should not take a more aggressive tactic with debtors than other industries because patients do not choose to need healthcare.

If the governor wants the confidence of consumers as he pursues a healthcare reform agenda, he should disassociate himself from Murphy's comments.

JOHN McDONOUGH, Executive Director Health Care for All

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