Forum at BGSU Firelands talks about health insurance reform

HURON TWP. About 75 people got an education in the problems of the health care system -- and what to
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

HURON TWP.

About 75 people got an education in the problems of the health care system -- and what to do about it -- in a forum Thursday at BGSU Firelands.

Much of the evening was spent allowing the forum's two panelists -- Beth Thames, deputy state director for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, and Dan Moncher, executive vice president and chief financial officer for Firelands Regional Medical Center -- to answer questions posed by the crowd. But plenty of time also was given to letting audience members express opinions. Some argued that Congress is rushing too fast to reform health care, while others said they've been waiting for years for reform.

Student Kaiana Burchett organized the forum, with help from BGSU staffers such as professor Michael Kimaid, who served as the moderator.

Here are some of the highlights:

Q. What are some of the problems with health care in the United States?

A. Per capita spending in the U.S. is very high compared to other countries but does not necessarily produce the best health care outcomes, Moncher said. Health care inflation is about 7 percent a year, compared to general inflation of 3 percent a year or less.There is a shortage of primary care physicians, the doctors who monitor a patient's health over many years and who try to keep the patient healthy. "The reason we have a shortage in this country is they're the lowest-paid doctors," Moncher said.

Q. What's right about U.S. health care?

A. The U.S. has excellent medical care and training, Moncher said. Technology is first-rate and constantly advancing, with hospitals vying to have the latest and greatest machines, although undoubtedly there's cost associated with such competition. Elective procedures are readily available in the U.S.

Q. Why does health care in the U.S. cost so much?

A. Rules and paperwork add to much of the cost. Moncher described how the hospital has many employees who spend all of their time trying to make sure the hospital complies with the numerous rules contained in the myriad of government and private insurance programs that pay the hospital for procedures. Thames complained about compensation for health insurance executives and stated that the CEO of Aetna makes $24 million a year. "That's a lot of money that could be devoted to care for people that truly, truly need it," she said.

Q. What would Sen. Sherrod Brown do to change health care in the U.S.?

A. Brown, a Democrat who has made health care one of his signature issues, wants everyone to have affordable, quality insurance, wants to make changes to control health care spending and wants to reform the insurance market so that companies do not abandon people when they need care, Thames said. He seeks to reduce medical errors and cut red tape, wants less fraud and abuse, seeks to address doctor shortages, wants to preserve Medicare and wants to provide incentives for wellness and prevention. Although it is not politically feasible, Brown supports a single payer system, in which all health care is paid for by the government, Thames said. "He believes that's the way it should be," she said.