Saturday, October 3, 2009

My experience at a health care reform panel discussion at Harlem Hospital

I went to Harlem Hospital on October 3rd to hear a panel about health care reform with a specific focus about what reform means for safety net hospitals like Harlem. Congressperson Rangel was in attendance and spoke.

Some of the panelists were more informed about reform than others. A representative from AETNA who was on the panel actually stated that co-ops were a public option. Huh?

Another doc who is in private practice and was representing the Empire State Medical Association told the audience that the public option (which he supported) would put half of private insurers out of business. Huh?

What disturbed me most were a few comments from the people in the audience (several jeers) when the topic of coverage for undocumented immigrants was raised and it was raised frequently. Some folks appeared very much against undocumented immigrants getting coverage on their dime. People were more preoccupied with undocumented immigrant issue, than all other aspects of reform.

I felt disgusted. When it came time for Q and A - I spoke as a physician and said we need to make sure all Americans - undocumented or not - have health coverage because we all will pay in the end (besides, it's the right thing to do) as we are now. Also, I mentioned that many undocumented workers do pay taxes so in effect they are subsizing our care without access to the same care they are subsidizing (this got a chuckle out of Rangel). I expressed that this disproportionate focus on preventing undocumented people from getting health care was a distraction put forth by folks who don't want to see real reform happen. I received alot of support from the several of the panelists on this point.

People in the community went there to learn about reform (I assume) but if I knew nothing and attended that panel I would have been sorely misinformed for the most part.

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