Saturday, October 31, 2009

Healthcare Mythbuster in Elmhurst, Queens

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of representing the NPA at a Healthcare Mythbusters event recently. It took place at the New Covenant Church in Elmhurst, Queens. Elmhurst is far out on the eastern edge of the borough.

As I walked toward the church, a surprising --- and surprisingly nice --- smell wafted toward me: manure. It turns out that the New Covenant Church is directly across the street from the historic Belmont Racetrack, which is home to the Belmont Stakes, one of the three jewels in the Triple Crown of horse racing.

The event took place in one of the small church’s clean, well-lit reception rooms. There was a vat of sweet iced tea and Jamaican beef patties at the back of the room, courtesy of a local business owner. Attendance was small at first, but grew steadily during the hour and a half I stayed. I was the first panelist to arrive, and I started speaking while people were still trickling in.

I began with a story about a patient who’d had an adverse health outcome because of his lack of insurance, and then segued into how the current legislation would change that. I briefly sketched out the major components of the bills: insurance reform, individual mandate, employer mandate, the health insurance exchange and the public option.

Because there were only eight people in the room, I didn’t sit behind the table at the front of the room. I stood up front, close to people, and tried to make my talk informal and interactive. One audience member, Veronica Beckford, was a staffer for Congressman Gregory Meeks, who represents the sixth district. She was very informed about the legislation and contributed usefully to the discussion.

After going through the different aspects of the legislation, I talked a little about Medicare, and how this legislation would improve it. I immediately got the sense that Medicare was an important issue to people. I emphasized how the legislation would close the “doughnut hole” and would pay hospitals for quality of care, not quantity.

I tried to encourage people not to fall for the insurance industry scare tactics. Reducing unnecessary care that does not make you healthier is not “cutting your benefits,” like the Republicans would have you believe. If anyone can testify that more hospital days and more procedures do not equal better health, it’s a doctor currently working in a hospital.

Overall it was a great experience. I think people left with a more positive impression of the healthcare reform legislation than when they arrived.

My only regret was that I didn't get to visit the Belmont Racetrack. I tried to think up a good joke about not believing the manure that the insurance industry was shoveling. But I didn't tell it, and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have gone over well anyway.

Dr. Cameron Page

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