Health care summit brings together providers, patients, candidate staffers Jennifer Boen, The News-Sentinel

Article published Sep 25, 2008 Health care summit brings together providers, patients, candidate staffers Jennifer Boen, The News-Sentinel A number of experts who spoke at Wednesday’s health care summit at the downtown library touted the benefits of a system that guarantees people who pay a set amount access to care. America is the only developed country where you have to worry about getting sick and going bankrupt at the same time,  said Dr. Jon Walker of Fort Wayne.  You are one diagnosis away from bankruptcy,  said the retinal surgeon, a member of Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan. According to the journal Health Affairs, 51 percent of bankruptcies in 2005 were related to medical expenses. The summit, organized by the local grassroots advocacy group Public 1, drew less than a handful of people from the general public but featured representatives from both presidential candidates’ campaign staffs, as well as community health care providers serving the uninsured or underinsured. Co-organizer Dan Jehl said the summit will air on public-access TV in the near future. With more than 800,000 uninsured Hoosiers and nearly 22,000 people in the U.S. dying each year because they cannot get health care, Walker said it is obvious the employer-sponsored system is broken. Despite spending more on health care per capita than any developed country in the world, mortality rates and life expectancies lag behind Canada, Germany, Japan and many other countries. The consumer health group Families USA released a report Tuesday showing Indiana health care insurance premiums have risen 7.3 times faster than earnings between 2000 and 2007. Walker contended the root is greed among investor-owned companies, pharmaceutical marketing, cost-shifting to the insured to cover the uninsured and heavy administrative costs. More than 30 percent of all health care dollars are administrative costs. Julia Vaughn, a health care consultant for Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, called the current system an ineffective mishmash of different systems.  Nobody ever sat down and created the U.S. health care system. We don’t need to spend more on health care. We need to take the system and turn it into a single-payer system.  That could happen if proposed legislation before Congress becomes law. Such a system  think Medicare  for all legal U.S. residents would initially save taxpayers $200 billion, with more savings coming from the ability to negotiate prices for drugs and doctors’ and hospitals’ fees, she said. Although individual taxes would increase about 3.5 percent, people would see an annual savings of at least $1,400 a year. The average family now pays about $12,000 a year in insurance premiums. There is no one single, silver bullet that’s going to be the answer to fix the health care system,  said State Health Commissioner Dr. Judy Monroe.

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