Champaign County Health Care Consumers‘ Forum

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ON THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2009, I attended
a Champaign County Health Care Consumers
(CCHCC) community meeting to
examine issues being raised around health
reform and to consider what it means in
Champaign-Urbana. We were welcomed by
CCHCC Board Chair, Lisa Dixon, and information
presented included the following:
• National Health Care Crisis
Overview: Yadira Montoya, CCHCC
Hotline Coordinator
• Local Perspective on the Uninsured:
Al Mytty, Director of Payer Contracting,
Carle Foundation Hospital
• Health Insurance Basics and CCHCC
Health Reform Anaysis & Principles:
John Ramsbottom, CCHCC Health
Care Access Task Force
• National Health Reform and
Medicare: Anne Gargano, CCHCC
Medicare Task Force Organizer
• Brief Overview of Legislative Process:
Nick Gainer, CCHCC Health Care
Access Task Force
• Single-Payer Health Reform Legislation:
Dr,. Anne Scheetz, Co-chair, Illinois
Single-Payer Coalition & Member
of for a National Health Program
• America’s Affordable Health Choices
Act and Other Health Reform Bills:
Claudia Lenhoff, CCHCC Executive
• Opportunities for Action Now: Gainer
• Question & Answer
• Wrap-up and Take Action: Lenhoff
At the start of the meeting, the Champaign
library auditorium was filled with
around 100 or so people, others stood by in
the hall. Interestingly, the majority of attendants
appeared to be over the age of fifty and
were balanced closely between women and
men. It seemed likely to me that the vast
majority present currently had health coverage,
many through Medicare.
Several presentations focused on clarifying
our current situation nationally and locally.
The gaps in coverage under existing plans
and the costs in the lives of those who have
no coverage were brought home with numbers
and, chillingly, in Lenhoff’s statement
that, “we have had clients die due to lack of
access to care.” Ramsbottom, pointed out
that, “unless we get an itemized bill directly
from the medical facility, [the majority of
individuals] don’t really know what these services
actually cost.” If knowledge is power,
then this gap represents a significant imbalance
in individuals’ ability to make decisions
about their medical care. This leaves us with
a system riddled with opportunities for privileging
profit over people and reduced opportunities
for accountability.
Dr. Scheetz emphasized that, “Medicare
is a single payer, government run program”
and argued that significant health care
reform could be accomplished simply by
expanding what is actually covered under
the program and by removing the age
requirement for participation. The presentation
from Scheetz was perhaps the most
overtly passionate of the evening. She
argued for Medicare for all not simply on
the basis of its inherent justice in its universality,
but also for the efficiency of such
a system. Sharing her own experiences as a
physician, she argued that she has much
more freedom and discretion to act in the
best interests of her patients under
Medicare because “I don’t have to call anybody
up to get permission or beg to get
something covered.” Completing her presentation,
Scheetz repeated call for
Medicare for all was applauded.
Speakers were up-front about their own
opinions and worked to present all sides
fairly by referring directly to documented
information on the various options. The
favored option across all the speakers was
offering Medicare for all; however, they
maintained a commitment to presenting
multiple perspectives by addressing the
specific representations of current House
and Senate legislative proposals.
As is perhaps typical of community
information events, media coverage was
high at the beginning. There were Two camera
operators with large video cameras, one
with a big still camera, and two using smaller
video cams. After about twenty-five minutes,
there were only the small video camera
operators, and by the end, only the CCHCC
operator remained. The audience itself was
rapt throughout the presentations and
speakers answered a variety of questions
from the group. As time ran down, Gainer
gave information about how to get involved.
Lenhoff challenged all of us saying of Congress,
“They need to hear from you,” she
was answered with nods and murmurs of
approval all around the room and the meeting
closed with people filing around the
table with information on how to do more.
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