Large crowd turns out health care forum

Published 6:19 pm Thursday, August 20, 2009

Several hundred people filled Bainbridge College’s Kirbo Regional Center beyond capacity on Thursday for a forum on health care reform.

During the four-hour meeting, U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Albany) provided an overview of the health care reform legislation currently being considered by Congress and also answered citizens’ questions well beyond the initially-scheduled two-hour time limit.

Bishop began by listing what he believed the reform legislation, which is being worked on by five separate Congressional committees, should do: reduce the cost of health care, improve its delivery, protect small business and expand the availability of heath care services in rural areas.

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The Congressman said he believed that while he has concerns with some provisions of the proposed legislation, he does not believe the United States can afford not to reform health care, as there are both economic and moral reasons to do so.

Bishop said indigent health care—services provided to persons who are uninsured or otherwise can’t afford to pay for them—has caused a dramatic increase in the cost of health care for people who do pay health insurance premiums. Along with the impact of higher costs on workers, businesses and government, allowing an estimated 47 million Americans to go on living without health insurance would cause them to have poor health and a shorter lifespan, he said. He also listed statistics that indicated Georgia—which has an estimated 1.9 million uninsured persons—is in worse health than the majority of the other United States in a number of categories.

An overview of the legislation

Bishop also dispelled what he said were myths about the proposed health care reform legislation, including: the legislation will not cover illegal aliens/immigrants and also prohibits the use of government money to fund abortions.

The proposed legislation allows Medicare to reimburse doctors who consult with very ill patients and their families on advanced care, but will not lead to “government-sponsored death panels.” An amendment to the legislation states that such consultations shall not promote suicide, assisted suicide or the hastening of the end of a person’s life and shall not presume the withdrawal of health care services.

According to Bishop, other goals of the health care reform legislation include giving incentives for more people to become general practitioners, making insurance plans easier to understand and more widely available to consumers, including across state lines; reducing out-of-pocket expenses for both privately insured persons and people enrolled in the Medicare prescription drug program; preventing insurance companies from excluding people from getting or renewing insurance based on pre-existing health conditions, gender, age or occupation; and streamlining paperwork associated with government-administered health care programs.

More information about the questions and answer session of Thursday’s town hall meeting will be published in Saturday’s issue of The Post-Searchlight.