Crowd of more than 100 discusses healthcare reform

Published 2:30 pm Monday, June 1, 2009

More than 100 Polk County residents sent a clear message on Wednesday that they feel the nation&squo;s healthcare system is poor and needs a major reform.

A grassroots public forum was held Wednesday at the Polk County Isothermal Community College with standing room only.

The panel for the forum included Dr. Gary Snipes, Becky Collins, Erik Bundy, Trel Lowe and Jim VanHecke, each of whom gave their opinions of what the country&squo;s healthcare reform should include.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The discussion was moderated by Dr. Faith Weathington.

The group watched a film, &dquo;Frontline: Sick Around the World,&dquo; prior to discussions. Many participants commented on the power of the film and the reality of how poor the United States&39; free market form of healthcare is compared to the systems in several other countries.

The film concentrated on studying the healthcare systems of the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland.

Healthcare leaders from all five countries spoke in the film and all responded they had never heard of anyone going bankrupt in their countries because of healthcare costs. In Japan, an MRI costs $98, compared to the U.S. average of $1,200. Japanese doctors also make house calls and the universal cost to treat a small cut is $4.50.

The audience was filled with&bsp; a variety of Polk County residents, ranging from public officials and healthcare employees to many with chronic illnesses who told stories of struggling to get the care they need.

The group focused on the need for local residents to reach out and let state and national legislators know that a reform in healthcare is needed.

Participants were urged to call and email legislators and to participate in a scheduled videotaping of local residents telling their personal stories. The videotaping will be held on Sunday, June 7 from 2:30 until 5 p.m. at the Trade Street Coffee House in Tryon. The group plans to send the video to President Barack Obama&squo;s office in Washington, D.C.

Panelists shared similar ideas Wednesday, with most stressing the need for universal healthcare, or healthcare coverage that is extended to all eligible residents. They said the United States is the only industrialized country that doesn&squo;t provide universal healthcare.

Panelists and residents said that the United States&squo; focus needs to change. They said healthcare is a right. One panelist said that the United States gives every citizen the right to an education and the right to have an attorney when in trouble, but not the right to healthcare.

Panelists also agreed that healthcare reform must focus heavily on preventive care.

Universal healthcare systems that were discussed ranged from single payer, which is a health insurance system similar to Medicare in which the government finances health care but is not involved in care delivery, to socialized medicine, in which the government operates health care facilities and employs health care professionals to deliver care, similar to the way the veterans&squo; system (VA) works in the United States.

Residents said the U.S. system is expensive and a reform is needed. Suggestions included studying other systems, such as in the U.K., Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland, and coming up with a new system based on what works and what doesn&squo;t in other countries.