07/25/10 — Health reform forum will answer questions

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Health reform forum will answer questions

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 25, 2010 1:50 AM

This week's free community forum on health care reform was prompted by an offhand question raised at a recent Board of Health meeting, said Dr. Kim Larson, current board chair.

"At our April meeting a community member during the public comment time asked, 'What's the new health care law going to do for me?'" she recalls. "I thought that was a very good question and probably one that many people had.

"Although we couldn't address it at that board meeting, I started working on (it) and getting the expert that is in this state, to address it for the Board of Health and for the community."

Dr. Pam Silberman, president and chief executive officer of the N.C. Institute of Medicine, will speak on "How Will Health Care Reform Affect You and Your Family?" on Tuesday from 7-8:30 p.m. in Moffatt Auditorium at Wayne Community College.

"She has a fantastic presentation and everybody in health care and who needs health care -- which is everybody -- needs to hear this information because the national health care reform is a complex issue," Mrs. Larson said. "It involved individual responsibility, employee responsibility and federal government responsibility.

"Dr. Silberman is going to start with an overview of the national health reform legislation. It has changed so many times. Now it's called 'Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.'"

One reason we have health care reform, Mrs. Larson said, is because of rising costs, problems with access to care and issues of quality of care.

"(Silberman) is going to address why this new national health care reform will address those three issues with the goal of improving individual and population health," she said. "I think that we have to be reminded that North Carolinians are not as healthy as the rest of the nation.

"We're 37th in adults who smoke, 41st in obesity and 36th in the percent of uninsured. That's the access to care part -- if people don't have insurance, they don't go to the doctor and they end up with worse problems."

Mrs. Larson said she would like to see the public turn out for Tuesday's discussion in full force. The information, she says, will be clear-cut and in manageable pieces.

"She's going to break it down into nuts and bolts, answer questions," she said. "What I'm hoping we all get out of it is an understanding of national health care reform and the insurance question, what is health care going to do for me? She's going to explain that very new type of insurance that will cover many people who don't have insurance."

Not to give away key points of the presentation, Mrs. Larson said, but there is good news on the horizon within the new plan -- including that insurers can no longer refuse people with pre-existing conditions, as well as things dealing with long-term care and prescription plans.

"And that all people will have to be insured or be penalized, and she'll talk about what that means," she added.

The plan also has a time frame, going into effect in staggered increments, she said.

"Some things happen next year, some things in 2013 and other things in 2014," she said. "The full implementation of the law is by 2014."

The complexity of the proposed plan has left many frustrated, Mrs. Larson said. Hopefully, the community forum will bring people together and dispel some of the misinformation that is out there.

"I would call this a beginning," she said. "Although she'll have some information, I think this will be a real beginning of learning about the law and hopefully getting people to ask their providers for more information after that.

"She has a handout that's very clear, that people will take home. She has been doing this across the state -- audiences from the public at large to health care professionals. She has set it up for a mixed group (and) the information is very clear."

Patty Pfeiffer, chair of the allied health and public services division at Wayne Community College, which is co-sponsoring event with the Health Department, called Dr. Silberman's visit an important one for Wayne County.

"Health care reform is among us, it's occurring and I think that the people need to be very aware of the changes and how it affects them individually," she said. "I think it's imperative that individuals in the community educate themselves.

"This is just a way to get information about health care reform. We're not really going to talk about politics. It's basically she's going to come in and just give us some overall basic information."

The 90-minute session will be broken into a 30- to 45-minute presentation on the key points of the new law and culminating in a question-and-answer segment, Ms. Pfeiffer said.

"We won't be able to give all the answers but hopefully, we will be able to give them some key points," she said. "I'm excited. I don't know everything myself and I have been in health care 26 years.

"But with changes it's hard to keep up with everything. I'm really looking forward to this."