Thursday, June 11, 2009

Obama Addresses Health Care Reform at Town Hall

Obama Addresses Health Care Reform at Town Hall On Thursday 6/11/09, President Obama addressed U.S. health care reform at a town hall in Green Bay, WI. He outlined his goals and stressed the need for swift change. He also emphasized strongly that he is not proposing "socialized medicine" and that he is not interested in government running the US health care system. While he clarified some points, several questions still remain.
Among the reasons for swift change:

  1. The US spends 50% more than other countries, yet receives no better quality

  2. The cost of health care increased three times faster than the cost of labor in recent years

  3. The cost of doing nothing will be much higher in years to come

Obama's goal: Quality health care for every American at an affordable cost.

What Obama proposes:

  1. Invest in wellness programs

  2. Allow those who like their doctors or health care plans to keep them

  3. Change provider incentives so they are not rewarded for performing unnecessary tests and procedures, or those that result in mistakes. He says the current system "equates expensive care with better care" and pays based on the number of tests and procedures performed.

  4. Provide more affordable health insurance options

  5. Create a "health insurance exchange" for health insurance one-stop-shopping. Consumers will be able to compare plans and choose what's best for them.

  6. Require that no plans be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions

  7. Provide assistance to consumers who cannot afford a basic benefits package

President Obama also announced that more information will be revealed in the coming days about his cost savings plans that will help pay for health care reforms. He hopes Congress will submit a health care plan sometime in October.

While the President did his best to explain his goals for a public health insurance option, some important questions still remain. Like, will the healthcare system have enough capacity to serve the additional 47 million currently uninsured patients? As these patients become insured under a public health plan and utilize more health care resources, will this put a strain on the system and create treatment delays for everyone?

If a new public health insurance is implemented as suggested, why would anybody choose a private health care option? Will employers continue to offer private health insurance in benefits packages or will they encourage employees to utilize public insurance in order to save money? And what will that mean to private insurance companies and consumers' choice?

Current public health care plans such as Medicare and Medicaid traditionally do not pay much to providers and often do not cover the cost of providing care...with more patients having public insurance, what will that mean for providers' ability to cover costs and stay in business?

It sounds like a grand plan with great benefit; however very few details are available that would allow anyone to determine if it is actually feasible. As the saying goes, "the devil is in the details." We'll all just have to wait to learn more.

In the meantime, if you're uninsured and cannot afford health care you still have options. Free clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) exist nationwide to provide free or low-cost basic health care to those in need. Go to to find and rate these providers in your area.

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