Archive for Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Health care concerns aired at forum

October 22, 2008


Election 2008

In-depth coverage of the candidates and the issues, all leading up to the Aug. 5 primary and the Nov. 4 general election.

There's a health care crisis.

During a two-and-a-half-hour community forum Tuesday night, statistics were flashed again and again before the 50 people in attendance at Lawrence Memorial Hospital:

¢ There are 46 million people in the United States without health insurance. There are 300,000 Kansans who are uninsured, and 198 of them will die each year because of it.

¢ One out of every $3 in health care costs goes to administrative costs.

¢ The U.S. spends more than any industrialized country on health care. Yet, its infant mortality rates are the highest and its life expectancy rates are the lowest.

"We are facing a tsunami in health care," said Dr. Ira Stamm, a member of the Kansas Health Policy Authority and longtime psychologist.

He said America needs to decide whether it wants incremental or transformational change. He described health care insurance as a 1947 car. Do we keep replacing the parts or do we buy a new one?

Stamm and the other panel members agreed that the health care system needs an overhaul.

The panel included: Burdett Loomis, a political analyst from Kansas University; Dr. David Goering, a hospitalist at LMH; Dr. Joshua Freeman, of Kansas University Medical Center's department of family medicine; and U.S. Senate candidate Jim Slattery. State Sen. Marci Francisco represented U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore and Katie McColloum was there on behalf of U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda.

Republican candidates Pat Roberts, Lynn Jenkins and Nick Jordan did not attend or send representatives.

Steps to take

There was much debate on how to fix the crisis.

Loomis said neither of the presidential candidates' health care plans would pass Congress. Sen. Barack Obama is proposing a national health insurance program for individuals who do not have employer-provided coverage. Sen. John McCain supports a change in the tax code to offer choices beyond employee-based health insurance.

"I am profoundly pessimistic," Loomis said of any reform.

Meanwhile, Goering presented a third option. He strongly supports the U.S. National Health Insurance Act, a bill submitted to the House that would create a publicly financed, privately delivered health care program that uses the Medicare program, but expands and improves it and makes it available to all Americans.

Action urged

After hearing about the plans among the politicians and health care professionals, Ed Outlaw, a hospice chaplain from Olathe, had just one question for them.

"I have heard a lot about plans," he said. "Just how long is the debate going to go on?"

Francisco said the National Health Insurance Act, also known as HR 676 or the Conyers bill, has the best chance of surviving. It has garnered support from several major health care professional organizations.

Slattery said he has proposed some health care changes that can be made quickly - for example, expanding Medicare coverage for those 55 and older and allowing Medicare to buy drugs in bulk from pharmaceuticals.

He said neither of the presidential health care plans are "realistic." Slattery supports a universal insurance program that mandates everyone pay something. He said we mandate that people pay for automobile insurance. Why not health insurance?

But mandating health care coverage drew concerns from a few Kansas University students who weren't sure they would be able to afford the costs, especially with the current economic crisis.

KU student Jamie Hamilton will turn 23 in May and will no longer be on her parents' health insurance policy. She is worried that she won't be able to afford insurance or meet deductible requirements. "What are you going to do to help me?" she asked the panel.

Hamilton, who plans to work in health policy after graduation, said about 45 percent of those uninsured are between the ages of 19 and 32.

Slattery said his No. 1 priority is expanding health care coverage for young adults: "You can be rich and 66 in this country and we pay for your health care. If you are poor and 16, you are on your own. This system just doesn't make sense."


Richard Heckler 9 years, 6 months ago

Any plan that includes insurance companies indicates the insurance companies are still in the drivers seat. This is not what the people want. It is what the politicians want. Thus far insurance companies have not contained the cost of health insurance or healthcare. The USA is spending nearly 3 times as much as other industrialized nations yet not receiving any better healthcare.1500 different insurance companies will not do anything to reduce mountains and mountains of paper that require too much staffing. 1500 different policies is too many.HR 676 National Health Insurance How Would It Help?HR 676 = one insurance company = efficiency = reduced cost HR 676 = patients choice across the board = removing the insurance companies from healthcare decisions = improved healthcare across the board.HR 676 = removing the health insurance industry from the special interests = removing health insurance dollars from campaigns,obscene salaries and golden parachutesHR 676 = no more bankruptcies due to insufficient health insurance coverage = no one losing homes HR 676 establishes an American-styled national health insurance program. The bill would create a publicly financed, privately delivered health care program that uses the already existing Medicare program by expanding and improving it to all U.S. residents, and all residents living in U.S. territories. The goal of the HR 676 legislation is to ensure that all Americans, guaranteed by law, will have access to the highest quality and cost effective health care services regardless of ones employment, income, or health care status. With over 45-75 million uninsured Americans, and another 50 million who are under insured, it is time to change our inefficient and costly fragmented health care system to HR 676. Physicians For A National Health Program reports that under a HR 676 Medicare For All plan, we could save over $286 billion dollars a year in total health care costs. HR 676 would move citizens away from our present system where annual family premiums have increased upwards to $12,068 this year.*HR 676 = Medicare for All would allow the United States to reduce its almost $2 trillion health care expenditure per year while covering all citizens. HR 676 = Every person living in the United States and the U.S. Territories would receive a United States National Health Insurance Card and identification number once enrolled . No co-pays or deductibles are permissible under this act.Physicians for National Health Insurance HR676

Ryan Neuhofel 9 years, 6 months ago

The notion that we have currently have a "free-market health care system" and that it is the cause of the current mess is a fallacy. I will agree that insurance companies have "taken advantage" of poor public policy to make billions while providing a poor product. Most Americans are forced to accept their employer's health insurance choices (due to the tax break provided to employers). This discourages shopping for the best and most appropriate insurance coverage. Knowing that customer satisfaction has little to due with their income, insurance companies don't give two-cents about treating their "customers" fairly. In fact, our entire perception that health care needs to be "purchased" by third-parties (insurance companies or government entities) is at the heart of this problem. I would argue that we are mostly "over-insured". Don't get me wrong, we do need health insurance for unexpected or catastrophic events (injuries, cancer, etc). However, pre-paying a middle-man to administer our money (mostly deny!) for routine (primary, prevention, maintenance) medical care is stupid. Each time you see your doctor (using the traditional insurance system), half of your money is going to cover overhead costs of the doctor and insurance company. Third-parties also hide the true cost of goods (Rx, etc) and services (via co-pays) in higher premiums. Imagine if your home insurance was provided through your employer and covered cleaning services and re-painting your walls . . . . What type of service do you think you would receive?

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