Letters to the Editor: Only a single-payer overhaul can fix America’s ailing healthcare system

Ambulances line up outside the hospital emergency department as they transport a patients.
Ambulances line up outside the emergency department as they transport patients into MLK Community Hospital in Los Angeles on Dec. 16.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I strongly agree with Dr. Daniel J. Stone’s piece on the key challenges that our healthcare system is failing to meet. He focuses on mental health needs, out-of-control drug prices, insufficient hospital funding and a bloated and inefficient private health insurance industry.

I would also add inequitable hospital funding, glaring health disparities, healthcare professional burnout and the growing menace of profit-oriented private equity taking over U.S. healthcare.

These problems are all linked, of course. Enacting Stone’s “Medicare for all” solution, a unified system of public financing, would be a major effective step in meeting all these challenges.


Other countries have already got this, and it works well. How much longer must Americans suffer?

Steve Tarzynski, MD, Santa Monica

The writer is president of the California Physicians Alliance, which advocates for single-payer healthcare.


To the editor: Stone extols the virtues of a single-payer system for the U.S. We already have two single-payer plans called Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California), but with built-in inefficiencies and costly limitations.

As a result, a growing number of Medicare beneficiaries have been turning to Medicare Advantage, while in California, Medi-Cal is being transformed into a multi-specialty, managed-care plan like Kaiser Permanente.

As for Ozempic, an injectable treatment for Type 2 diabetes, the same medication, formulated in a higher dose for managing obesity, is dispensed under the brand name Wegovy. In Great Britain, the list price for a month’s supply of four injection pens of Wegovy — which is not yet covered by the National Health Service — is about $88, whereas in the U.S. the same prescription product sells for $1,349.


Why the vast disparity? I imagine Stone and his patients are asking the same question.

Harold N. Bass, MD, Porter Ranch


To the editor: Stone hits the mark with his incisive and honest critique of our American healthcare system. My attention was drawn particularly to primary care physicians having to step outside their scope of practice to prescribe psychoactive medications.

I am a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I cannot relay the amount of times my clients have been unable to book appointments with psychiatrists due to shortages, insurance glitches, prolonged waiting periods, or because more and more psychiatrists are becoming fee-for-service practitioners.

Many times, these same clients have to pay out of pocket for psychiatric consults, and these were the fortunate ones. Having to pay cash for a service that is covered by your insurance, and for which you pay a handsome monthly premium, is appalling.

Something has to change. It appears America prioritizes wealth over mental health.

Regina Lehrer, Westlake Village


To the editor: Stone should have added the exhausting healthcare expenditures associated with patient non-compliance. The most significant component is substance abuse, including alcohol and recreational drug abuse.


Rates of cigarette smoking have diminished over many years, due in part to the prohibition on advertising. Unfortunately, it seems that alcohol advertisements have replaced cigarette advertisements.

Bruce R. Ellinoy, Manhattan Beach

The writer is a retired critical care pharmacist.