Get Adobe Flash player

Health care forum packed with detailed discussion

healthcare forum

At the  forum last Thursday members of the public were asked to show their pre-existing conditions to make a statement on the importance of insurance coverage.

The Pickens Democrats and Appalachian Indivisible health care forum drew a surprising crowd of more than 60 people to Chattahoochee Tech considering Thursday was a rainy night during summer vacation.

More surprising was the number and depth of the questions. The audience wanted to talk minutiae of national health care with the panel of three health care speakers and one congressional candidate.

Marie Head from Appalachian Indivisible said the turnout shows the topic is universal; it’s an issue that people want to learn about and need to talk about, she said.

“I am surprised by the turnout,” she said. “We knew we’d get our members out, but we got a lot more.”

John Frech, a retired business executive who researches health care options and pens occasional pieces for the Progress, opened by saying that debate of different plans and coverage is a smokescreen that misses the real point – health care in America is too inefficient and expensive.

A comparison from around the world shows that, as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, the United States spends twice as much as the next highest country for health care that is no better here and in some cases worse.

He used an example that it would be like two car dealerships on the same road each selling the same model, but one charges twice as much and has no explanation to give customers.

There is a misconception, Frech said, that all other countries have socialized medicine or use the same system, but that is far from true. The other countries do have two things in common: they all have universal coverage and they are all less expensive than the U.S.

He also cited examples of how the United States has an unbelievably fragmented health care system in the country, particularly in terms of cost. For example, he said insurance premiums in the Seattle area have dropped under the ACA while they have gone up in Nashville. Medicaid spends considerably less per capita in Minnesota than Texas with no obvious cause of the discrepancy.

Frech cited several keys to the high costs here, including marketing by pharmaceutical companies; that 20 percent of the people who work in the medical field never come into contact with any patient and the lack of wellness programs and poor lifestyle habits.

From the audience several people chimed in on the salaries of top national insurance company CEOs.

All national plans here will be doomed to fail until the waste is cut from the system, he said.

Frech was followed by Laura Harker of the Ga. Budget and Policy Institute who said the media coverage of the possible change to Trumpcare from Obamacare has missed one important aspect, the massive impact of cuts to Medicaid. She said two million Georgians see doctors thanks to Medicaid. Furthermore, Medicaid has proven itself to be an effective means of budgeting and making payments in a timely manner compared to private insurance.

She said there is a false belief that healthy American adults abuse Medicaid. In reality, mostly children with some disabled adults are served. Only adults making $7,000 a year or less can qualify and it is still restrictive.

She said cuts to Medicaid could have serious consequences for local nursing homes, all of whom have patients that rely on Medicaid for their stays.

Following her was Laura Colbert of Georgians for a Healthy Future. Colbert also wanted to stress the importance of Medicaid in this state. She said that in recent years, Georgia has moved closer than ever before to seeing that all children have some kind of insurance. Currently about 5 percent of Georgia children (about 200,000) still lack insurance, though numerous program abound, but this is the lowest figure ever.

The evening also featured Josh McCall who is running as a Democrat for 9th District next year. Incumbent Congressman Tom Graves’ office [14th District] sent word he could not attend. Congressman Doug Collins’ office[9th District] did not respond to invitations.

McCall gave a fiery speech, with plenty of jabs at the incumbent, drawing applause for saying his healthcare platform would be one big pool for all Americans that would be simple, straightforward and cheaper.

The meeting adjourned after a lengthy question and answer session.