Choice in L.A. Unified schools; not buying the health insurance industry’s defense; cracking down on LAX solicitations

Child welfare: An April 1 letter to the editor stated that child welfare expert Eileen Pasztor offered a blueprint for a public-private partnership to increase child safety and accountability to the Department of Children and Family Services and that it was rebuffed. She did not offer such a blueprint, but she has worked with DCFS on training projects over the years to improve policies and practices. —

Greener grass

Re “Parents find it harder to ditch L.A. Unified,” March 29

It is unfathomable that L.A. Unified has reached such depths that it needs to construct a Berlin Wall to prevent families within city limits from seeking educational opportunities elsewhere. Whose interests is it really taking to heart?

This new policy will only increase disparities between the haves and have-nots, as those with resources are already in private schools or will flee there. The permit system is the only way for those without financial means to seek a better education outside the district for their children.

And this policy runs counter to all of the prevailing research showing that education only improves through competition and choice.

Supt. Ramon C. Cortines finds it “offensive” that people expect to have choices. I find it offensive that he wants to hold children hostage -- and uproot and punish existing permit students -- just to improve L.A. Unified’s bottom line.

Molly Shore

It seems that the L.A. Unified School District places a higher value on money than it does a better education.

If parents or students feel that the school they are attending is not providing the best possible education, they should have the inherent right to transfer to a school that will.

Kelly Panagon
Coto de Caza, Calif.

The cost of health insurance

Re “The wrong whipping boys,” Opinion, March 29

Top insurance company lobbyist Patrick Johnston excuses skyrocketing health insurance premiums in our state by claiming that it’s those darn healthcare providers that are mercilessly jacking up their rates; his industry is just passing them along.

Leaving aside the recent record profits of our health insurance companies, and the fact that insurers pocket a good percentage of our premiums while providing no care, Johnston is completely missing the point.

It’s precisely because of our highly fragmented insurance system, with so many different insurers, that healthcare costs are out of control.

The massive duplication and confusion created by all these payers and their myriad plans is one big issue; more important is the fact that no single insurance company has the power to negotiate rates with healthcare providers. The result is that neither providers nor insurers in the United States have any pressure to rein in costs.

Randall Smith
San Diego

Healthcare insurance industry, want to incentive-ize everyone to cut costs?

Give healthy people a break for proper diet, exercise, preventive care, conservative medical attention or prompt payment of services, monitored by an annual checkup -- an impartial “smog check” system if you will. Reward those who “pass” a reasonable threshold with an annual insurance premium rebate.

Also, incentive-ize urgent care, pharmacy clinics and virtual doctors for their prudence in quick and thrifty health solutions. Reward them too, with a premium rebate.

Any patient who maintains a certain standard of excellence should expect a minimal rise in their premiums, regardless of age or size of operation.

Want to cut your rebate costs? Lower your premiums.

Now, prevent hospitals/doctor groups/whatever from passing their “overages” on to patients when seeking to charge in excess of your reimbursement agreement. They overcharge, they lose.


Diane Cairns
Oak Park, Calif.

Johnston unwittingly highlights the problem: insurance companies add nothing but waste to the healthcare process.

They are middlemen who siphon profits from a dysfunctional and inefficient administrative system.

In a market system, competition results in everyone vying for the highest price. So doctors, hospitals and labs “negotiate” for higher prices. Isn’t that the way it is supposed to work?

Johnson offers no solutions to the high-cost problem--that’s because there are none. Let’s face it -- healthcare does not fit the market model of private insurance.

Jay Slosar
Newport Beach

Memories of Vietnam

Re “35 years in the making,” March 25

Every April, many Vietnamese expatriates feel a pang at the memory of the fall of Saigon in 1975.

I don’t want to reopen old wounds; I want to thank the United States, which has become a second country for those of us lucky enough to have escaped.

Of all the Americans who helped us at that time, I remember Frank Snepp, then working for the CIA. In his book, “Decent Interval,” he showed compassion and sympathy toward the South Vietnamese during that painful time.

Snepp was severely penalized for writing that book. But many Vietnamese expatriates remember his good heart and honesty. I hope his life since then has been as fruitful as ours.

Nina Arnett
Fountain Valley

After reading the story, my feeling is that Vu Tien Kinh is very ungrateful to the family who adopted him. His adoptive father, a plumber, told him: “I work extra hours so you don’t have to, and I get my hands dirty so you don’t have to.” I think Vu should be ashamed to say “you can’t choose your family.”

Maybe it’s a good thing they did -- somebody else might not have been willing to give him the advantages to get what he has now.

Joy Pierce

Reform comes too late

Re “As children die, reform still falters,” March 28

Now that I am retired after nearly 30 years as a chief executive of well regarded nonprofit agencies providing services under contract to the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services, and working closely with every one of the directors, I have only one thing to say about the article: The Times got the headline right.

Judy Nelson
Redondo Beach

No child abuse or death from neglect or abuse in foster care is acceptable. The editorials and articles on child deaths in foster care do little to examine how daunting it is to manage the country’s largest public child welfare agency.

The turnover in leaders over the last few decades that The Times chronicles is evidence of the difficulty. But frequent staff turnover and the resulting constant training needs are only one part of the problem any leader faces.

The safest and most effective child-placing private agencies are not only licensed but accredited.

Accreditation allows county social workers to make informed choices when county homes are not available or the child’s needs require highly specialized foster care.

Carol Biddle
Salinas, Calif.

Here we go again.

Another scandal. More outrage. Another investigation ordered by the pious Board of Supervisors. And finally, another director gets ready to follow the Boulevard of Broken Promises.

Kids were dying in foster homes and at their own families’ hands 40 years ago when I was a social worker.

At least one of the experts quoted in The Times’ story, Eileen Pasztor, and others of us have offered DCFS a blueprint for a new approach to a public- private partnership that would bring a higher level of child safety and increased accountability to a system that is out of control.

But that blueprint has been repeatedly rebuffed in favor of the same-old, same-old, with a different titular department head every few years.

Teresa DeCrescenzo
Studio City