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Healthcare House Parties, Take II

house partyRemember those Healthcare House Parties that we reported on back in December?  The ones that were organized by President Obama and former Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, to get Americans talking about healthcare? 

Well, a lot has changed since then (Mr. Daschle is no longer the nominee for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services- HHS- for example), but we wanted to let folks know what ideas, thoughts and sentiments came out of those meetings- and to thank anyone who was able to participate.  

(In case you were wondering, Mr. Daschle dropped out of the running for Secretary of HHS after it was reported that he owed several thousand dollars in back taxes.  President Obama nominated Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to take his place, but she has yet to be confirmed.)

The Obama administration has now posted a comprehensive summary on the house parties on its Change.gov website.

Some highlights from the report:

Who participated?

  • Over 9,000 individuals from all 50 states and D.C. signed up to host the parties, and thousands more participated to “discuss ways to reform our healthcare system;”
  • 3,276 reports were submitted in total.

What topics were covered? 

  • Using the guidelines distributed by the Obama administration, groups discussed everything from the problems facing our healthcare system to potential solutions for reform.

Participant thoughts on…Healthcare Costs, Accessing Care, Quality and the Health System

  • Groups that discussed healthcare costs were equally worried about health insurance premiums and the overall cost of the health system;
  • On the topic of accessing care, participants talked about the difficulty of obtaining private insurance due to pre-existing conditions, and brought up issues related to inadequate coverage, provider shortages, and the large numbers of uninsured Americans;
    • 36% of the reports that mentioned quality talked about the overuse of services; 
    • 20% pointed to medical errors as being a major problem;
    • 37% of surveys that talked about the overall system criticized the relationship between health insurance and employment, and 27% said the system is overly complex.
  • Groups felt that the healthcare system should be
    • fair (37%),
    • patient-centered and choice-oriented (19%),
    • simple and efficient (17%), and
    • comprehensive (15%).
  • Groups also debated the role of government, business, the private sector and individuals in healthcare reform, without any clear consensus on what each of these groups should be required or permitted to do.

What’s to be done?

  • Survey respondents supported a range of specific reforms, including:
    • Having an insurance exchange,
    • Reducing prescription drug costs,
    • Education on health and wellness, and
    • Developing standards for research and service provision.
  • Group members said they would be willing to participate in future community meetings, and encouraged the President to hold a White House Summit on Healthcare Reform (which he recently did).

The Obama administration’s effort to solicit citizen input is certainly refreshing.

And we hope that they follow through on their goal of “…health reform that is directly responsive to the problems that Americans face, the stories they share and the solutions they offer.”

Consider these examples:

  • From Enid, Oklahoma: “I have worked hard all my life as a farmer and in the energy sector. I have spent my life’s savings on [health care] and now I am refused care at our local hospital because I cannot pay. I may have to file [for] bankruptcy due to this.”
  • From Houston, Texas: “How can you go out on a limb and start a new business when health care is a noose around your neck?”
  • From Fort Wayne, Indiana, describing a small business’s experience: “[They] had premiums jump from $385 per month for three employees to more than $2,800 in four years. They were forced to drop coverage and have lost two key employees because of it.”
  • From Cambridge, Massachusetts: “[T]he biggest problem in paying bills was the fact that nobody seems to know what their health care should cost. Nobody could cite a situation where they understood their medical bill or knew whether the insurance company was providing proper coverage for rendered services.”
  • From Bristol, Virginia: “Many argued that the insurance industry should be completely removed from the health care delivery system, but others saw how they acted as ‘gatekeepers’ to control costs, and to offer affordable coverage to some employers.”
  • From Redondo Beach, California: “All individuals with employer-based package[s] seemed to like the idea of options to utilize [an] insurance exchange or public insurance, depending on the cost of the program(s).”

  We welcome your comments on the house parties.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Dan April 21, 2009, 7:33 pm

    Something needs to be done, and has been this way progressively for some time now:

    What follows are believed to be facts that are believed to exist regarding the present U.S. Health Care System. This may be why about 80 percent of U.S. citizens understandably want our health care system overhauled desperately due to the inadequate health care they receive and access:

    The U.S. is ranked number 42 related to life expectancy and infant mortality, which is rather low.

    However, the U.S. is ranked number one in the world for spending the most for health care- as well as being number one for those with chronic diseases. About 125 million people have such diseases. This is about 70 percent of the Medicare budget that is spent treating these terrible illnesses.

    Health Care costs are now well over 2 trillion dollars of our gross domestic product. This is three times the amount nearly 20 years ago- and 8 times the amount it was about 30 years ago. Most is spent with medical institutions, as far as health expenditures are concerned.

    One third of that amount is nothing more than administrative toxic waste that does not involve the restoration of the health of others.

    This illustrates how absurd the U.S. Health Care System is presently. Nearly 7000 dollars is spent on every citizen for health care every year, and that, too, is more than anyone else in the world.

    We have around 50 million citizens without any health insurance, which may cause about 20 thousand deaths per year. This includes millions of children without health care, which is added to the planned or implemented cuts in the government SCHIP program for children, which alone covers about 7 million kids.

    Our children.

    Nearly half of the states in the U.S. are planning on or have made cuts to Medicaid, which covers about 60 million people, and those on Medicaid are in need of this coverage is largely due to unemployment. With these Medicaid cuts, over a million people will lose their health care coverage and benefits to a damaging degree.

    About 70 percent of citizens have some form of health insurance, and the premiums for their insurance have increased nearly 90 percent in the past 8 years. About 45 percent of health care is provided by our government- which is predicted to experience a severe financial crisis in the near future with some government health care programs, it has been reported.

    Half of all patients do not receive proper treatment to restore their health, it has been stated. Medical errors desperately need to be reduced as well, it has been reported, which should be addressed as well.

    Most doctors want a single payer health care system, which would save about 400 billion dollars a year- about 20 percent less than what we are paying now. The American College of Physicians, second in size only to the American Medical Association, supports a single payer health care system.

    The AMA, historically opposed to a single payer health care system, has close to half of its members in favor of this system. Less than a third of all physicians are members of the AMA, according to others.

    Our health care we offer citizens is the present system is sort of a hybrid of a national and private health care system that has obviously mutated to a degree that is incapable of being fully functional due to perhaps copious amounts and levels of individual and legal entities.

    Health Care must be the priority immediately by the new administration and congress. Challenges include the 700 billion dollars that have been pledged with the financial bailout that will occur, since the proposed health care plan of the next administration is projected to cost over a trillion dollars within the first year or so of the proposed plan to recalibrate health care for all of us in the U.S.

    Likely, hundreds of billions of dollars that are speculated to be saved with a reform of the country’s health care system. Health policy analysts should not be greatly concerned on the health care corporate shareholders who may be affected by this reform of our health care system that is desperately needed.

    It is estimated that the U.S. needs presently tens of thousands more primary care physicians to fully satisfy the necessities of those members of the public health. This specialty makes possibly less than 100 thousand dollars annually in income, compared with other physician specialties, yet they are and have been the backbone of the U.S. health care system.

    The American College of Physicians believes that a patient centered national health care workforce policy is needed to address these issues that would ideally restructure the payment policies that exist presently with primary care physicians.

    Further vexing is that it is quite apparent that we have some greedy health care corporations that take advantage of our health care system. Over a billion dollars was recovered for Medicare and Medicaid fraud last year through settlements paid to the department of Justice because some organizations who deliberately ripped off taxpayers.

    These are the taxpayers in the U.S. who have a fragmented health care system with substantial components and different levels of government- composed of several legal entities and individuals, which has resulted in medical anarchy, so it seems.
    Thanks to various corporations infecting our Health Care System in the United States, the following variables sum up this system as it exists today. Perhaps the United States National Health Insurance Act (H.R. 676) is the best solution to meet our health care needs as citizens, it appears.

    We would finally have, as with most other countries, a Universal Health Care system that will allow free choice of doctors and hospitals, potentially, and health care for all completely.

    It should and likely will be funded by a combination of payroll taxes and general tax revenue which is realistically possible.

    Because the following seems to be in need of repair regarding the U.S. Health Care System:

    Access- citizens do not have the right or ability to make use of this system as we should.

    Efficiency- this system strives on creating much waste and expense as it possibly can.

    Quality- the standard of excellence we deserve as citizens with our health care is missing in action.

    Sustainability- We as citizens cannot continue to keep our health care system in as it is designed at this time- as it exists today.

    http://www.mckinsey.com/mgi/publications/US_healthcare/index.asp

    Dan Abshear

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