Congressman Phil Gingrey, R-Marietta, along with a panel that included James Trussell, chief volunteer officer of the Northwest Georgia Parkinson Disease Association Inc., urologist Mark Haber, orthopedic surgeon Scott Barbour and dermatologist Tom Sandwich all expressed opposition to the health care reform plan proposed by Democrats and spearheaded by President Barack Obama.
Those who attended the town hall meeting seemed to agree something must be done about the cost of health care, but there doesn’t seem to be much agreement on how to fix the problem.
“My biggest concern right now is the increasing cost,” said Steve Robinson, a retired electrician who hoped to learn more about proposals before Congress.
Gingrey said America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 would take control out of the hands of doctors and patients and place it into the hands of a panel that would choose which procedures would be used in patient care.
“A doctor would have to follow those recommendations because they don’t want to be sued,” he said. “Being a doctor is not so much a science but an art. There’s a sixth sense to doing this type of work that can’t be done scientifically.”
Floyd County’s George Harper, organizer for the ad-hoc committee called the Get Well Party, said he didn’t feel there were any credible alternatives provided at the two-hour session.
“I think most of what we heard down there today was blaming the government or government bureaucrats for all the problems in the system, when in fact it’s the insurance companies who deny coverage and health care providers who try to dictate what they can practice,” he said. “I think they had the wrong emphasis on the problem.”
The doctors on the panel, along with Trussell, who also suffers from Parkinson’s disease and works in the insurance industry and is uninsured because of his illness, agreed with Gingrey that federal mandates about how care should be provided would be “unacceptable,” according to Trussell.
Harper discussed his own struggle through the health care system as a survivor of kidney failure and a successful transplant patient. He said he was able to make it through the past 20 years of struggles with the help of Medicare.
“I think the most cost efficient way to do it would be to have a universal plan which would cover everyone. It would be the best way to spread the risk and reduce the cost,” Harper said. “There’s a lot of opposition to it in the United States, and that’s why Obama and the leadership in Congress are looking for a way to do it for something less than that and provide options.”
Harper added Medicare is one reason why he was still alive to be able to attend the town hall meeting Saturday, and said it had helped others survive catastrophic illnesses as well.
“Medicare is a good program, but it’s a program heavily subsidized by the American taxpayer,” Gingrey said in response to Harper’s statement.
What Roman Paul Jackson wanted to know was if everyone who works for the federal government would be forced to use a Congress-passed system.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Gingrey conjectured.
Small business owner Janice Attaway, who was uninsured for 10 years, asked the panel what would happen if businesses were forced either to provide insurance coverage for their employees or buy into a government mandated program.
The panel didn’t have much of an answer, but they pointed to polling numbers indicating a large majority of people are happy with their current insurance plans.
Roman Frank Adams had a novel solution to the problem of health care financing in the United States: fund it locally through special purpose sales taxes partnering with credit unions and make the plan available to everyone who wishes to buy in.
“We should let people invest into the program and then be able to take out low interest loans if their health care costs became too expensive,” he said.
Doctors agreed that funding not the quality of care is what needs to be fixed.
“Our current health care system is not fine, and it needs to be changed,” said Haber, who was representing docs4patientcare.org. “But the current bill doesn’t fix the underlying problems in the system.”
Many government run systems, like the Veterans Administration, have failed the public in both cost and care, said Sandwich, who has a private practice in South Georgia. He pointed to the cases of veterans being exposed to hepatitis and HIV, along with poor care at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
In his final remarks, Gingrey offered a number of options that he said would help drive down costs, including reforms in health care liability and stripping out federal and state mandates that insurance providers pass onto their customers.
Click here to see the text of America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.