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Experts: Insurance Shortage Threatens Health System

July 24, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ National health insurance is needed to avert a financial collapse of the health-care system, say some physicians and hospital officials. The Bush administration is unconvinced.

″Abandonment of the uninsured is becoming a societal disgrace and a financial disaster for many hospitals,″ said Edward Thomas, president of Detroit Receiving Hospital and chairman of the Michigan Hospital Association.

Michigan hospitals lost $350 million last year treating patients who could not, or would not, pay, Thomas told a Senate subcommittee monday.

Nearly 25 percent of the people treated at his inner-city hospital are not covered by insurance, he said.

″There is mounting evidence that the system is on the verge of fiscal collapse,″ said Norton J. Greenberger, chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

As many as 37 million Americans have no health insurance, Greenberger told the Senate Finance subcommittee on health for families and the uninsured. Nearly as many have inadequate or interrupted overage, he said.

Sen. Donald Riegle, D-Mich., the subcommittee chairman, said the situation ″underscores the need to develop a national strategy for providing health care for all Americans. It ought to be clear to us that the system is breaking down.″

However, Health and Human Services Secretary louis Sullivan told business leaders in Atlanta on Monday that the solution will be found in a free market where businesses are not burdened with requirements.

″Those who call for a radical revamping of our health-care system -- suggesting nationalized medicine -- are mistaken,″ Sullivan said in his prepared remarks, which were made available in Washington.

--- Workers Cited Safety Problems To Relatives

WASHINGTON (AP) - Two of the 17 workers killed by an explosion at a Texas chemical plant had told relatives they were worried about the plant’s safety, according to family members.

The workers also had worries about training at Atlantic Richfield Co.’s plant in Channelview, where vapors caught fire and exploded near an electric compressor July 5, witnesses told a House panel on Monday.

″Safety has to come before profit,″ said Sandy Davis, widow of Greg Davis, an electrician killed in the blast. Ms. Davis wept while testifying that her husband told her several times he was unsure of the skills of some of his fellow contractors.

The chief of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Gerald Scannell, said the agency has proposed new safety rules for the chemical industry. But the rules aren’t being put into place fast enough, said two Houston congressmen, Democrat Mike Andrews and Republican Jack Fields.

″There’s not a chance in hell I’d work for a chemical plant unless I had a 1-year-old child and was out of work,″ aid Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., referring to Davis, whose widow said he took the Arco job in suburban Houston after being unemployed for six months and becoming a new father.

But Fields cautioned, ″It is doubtful that the government, or any particular company, can ever completely guarantee that something isn’t going to go wrong.″

The congressmen said they were frustrated that 40 workers had been killed at chemical companies in the nine months since the House employment and housing subcommittee examined the October explosion that killed 23 at a Phillips plastics plant in Pasadena, another Houston suburb.

--- Some States Still Allow Public Schools To Teach About Religion

WASHINGTON (AP) - Public schools in 13 states are permitted to teach about religion, and the Bible may be taught as literature in 10 states, a new survey finds.

It also shows that 23 states allow excused absences for religious holidays and 22 mention observance of a moment of silence in their laws or regulations.

The survey was conducted by the National Council on Religion and Public Education, which says its purpose is to provide a forum for issues involving religions and public education.

The survey, which drew responses from all states except Hawaii, was to determine how many laws, regulations or guidelines were on the books of states in matters of religion or moral education. A law or regulation was counted whether it permitted or forbade a practice.

Teaching about religion in public schools is different from teaching religion, said Charles C. Haynes of Americans United Research Foundation. ″We advocate public discussion about religion in public schools,″ he said Monday.

The survey was by Charles R. Kniker, assistant dean of education at Iowa State University.

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