12/30/08 — Ideas offered at health care forum

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Ideas offered at health care forum

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on December 30, 2008 1:46 PM

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Dr. Robert Meyer, left, shares his views on health care Monday evening at a forum at the public library.

Vicky Darden is still in pain from an accident she had on the job years ago. Fired from the job and on disability now, she has no insurance.

The health care system in America is broken and it needs to be fixed, she and several other speakers said at a health care forum for the Obama Transition Team.

The forum was held Monday night at the Wayne County Library. About two dozen people attended.

The moderator, Arthur Herring, described himself as a concerned citizen who read about the forums proposed by the President-elect. Nobody else stepped forward in Wayne County, he said, so he volunteered. He said all comments would be forwarded to Obama's transition team.

Those attending the forum Monday night gave many suggestions, including updating and simplifying the system, controlling costs, increasing the number of primary care providers, revamping Medicare, switching the focus to prevention and wellness as well as improving how services are provided to the disabled.

Nobody likes the medical system as it is now, said Dr. Rudy Maier, whose specialty is neurology and pain management.

"The health care system in America is lousy," he said. "It costs twice as much as anywhere else in the world. And there is plenty of room to cut costs."

The problem, several said, is the insurance companies and health management organizations (HMOs) that tell doctors what they can and cannot do.

"Nobody but the doctor and I should make decisions about my health care," said disabled veteran Larnell Reese. "There should be no second and third parties involved."

When Reese was a child, he saw one doctor who took care of every medical problem he might have.

"Everybody wants to go out and find their own personal gold mine .... Now, you go to a hospital, and you will see a dozen people. Too many are trying to find a specialty," he said.

But with the increased number of medical school graduates going into specialty fields, there are not enough primary care providers, said Dr. Robert Meyer, one of the few primary care providers in Wayne County.

"Quality of care and access are better with primary care," he said.

It's not true that primary care providers should make more money. The others need to make less, he said.

"I drive a 1995 Blazer, and I'm proud of it," he said.

Obama's plan needs to not involve any input from the insurance industry, he said. It is the insurance industry and the Medicare system that tell doctors what to charge their patients.

Obama's team needs to look at Medicare and Medicaid to see how much they are overcharging citizens for medical services, said Mary Rhoe.

The lists of procedures approved by Medicare are archaic, said Angela Fox.

"As soon as they print out a list, it's obsolete," she said. "We have some ridiculous ways of doing things. It's the way we've structured the system. It's in need of an overhaul. We can save a lot of money simply by simplifying the system."

Obama's health care plan needs to focus on health and prevention, said Kim Larson, a member of the local board of health. People need to know how to stay healthy, walk and eat the right things, she said.

"Some have no access to a safe place to exercise. And some can't eat fruits and vegetables because they can't afford them," she said.

Angela Fox said the system set up to deal with the disabled is broken, too.

"The system is based on an old way of doing things. When I was a child, if you were diagnosed with cancer, you were at death's door. Now, people are living with cancer," she said.

Meyer this morning agreed that a lot can be fixed by simply updating the way things are done.

The current system is set up based on historical pricing like those used back when a patient spent six weeks in the hospital to get cataracts removed.

Today, he said, you can be back home in an hour.

"You just have to use common sense," he said.

Mary Rhoe asked Herring if those in Wayne County who want to communicate with Obama's Transition Team can talk to just one person and not be passed around from one bureaucrat to another.

"We can send them the information," he said. "But will they heed it? We don't know. But we can try."

Anybody who wants to address the health care issues that concern them can send an email message to Herring at aherring@hughes.net, and he will forward the message to the transition team. For information, call him at 580-8320.