It was a tough decision Thursday evening—spend it outside where it was gloriously warm and sunny or inside Dimond High with our senior Senator, plus nearly a thousand vocal people.
Only a few dozen people got to comment on health reform, while hundreds left unheard. We all left without answers. Even the Senator didn’t get the information she needs before making decisions on our behalf.
The Senator said she was there to learn and it would have been so easy to do so, had she asked US a few questions, first. She said she’d received 5,000 letters and e-mails on health reform, but didn’t say if she’d read them.
A friend kept a tally at the meeting and it reveals an interesting pattern: the Senator spoke for 22 minutes, then about 30 people commented, but most did not take the full two minutes they were allotted. In the end the public took up about 45 minutes with their questions, while the Senator spent 75 minutes answering. My friend wished it had been the other way around.
What a great occasion to get data from hundreds of constituents, if only she’d asked us some questions (and what a learning opportunity it could have been for those attending). With a show of hands she could have learned:
· How many in attendance were covered by private health insurance either through work or purchased privately; how many could afford to pay the full premiums if they had to (providing they even know what those costs are)?
· How many have had private insurance deny payment for a procedure or for a pre-existing condition, or drop coverage altogether? (see footnote #1)
· How many with private insurance have deductibles of $1,000 or more?
· How many currently lack any health insurance?
· Those without insurance (and interested in getting it), could they afford $200 a month, $300, $400?
· Would those without insurance (or wanting to switch) buy into a government run program or non-profit, if it was available?
· How many people were on Medicare, Medicaid, VA or other government run insurance?
· Various questions could have been asked about these programs including availability of primary care doctors who take Medicare clients, but we know the answer. Lesser known is how easy it is for such clients to get appointments with specialists (in my experience, it isn’t a problem).
· How many had practical suggestions for making the government run programs more efficient (and more importantly would the Senator take these suggestions to heart even if it meant changing the laws that run the programs)? (See footnote #2)
· How many would like health insurance to be portable (take it with you when you move)?
· How many understood that the cost of health insurance would be paid for by citizens who buy (affordable) premiums?
· How many felt that tort reform should be a component of health reform?
· How many agreed with her website that places an emphasis on increasing reimbursement for primary care doctors for Medicare clients in Alaska? Where do people feel the increased funds should come from?
· How many knew the facts for a viable Health Coop—minimum number of enrollees, decision-making procedures, etc?
. How many admitted that health costs would not be contained until they took a serious interest in their own health by exercising, eating better, and eliminating tobacco?
· And last, how many people would like to enroll in Congress’ health insurance plan, if offered?
#1 I walked out with a lady who wanted to tell the Senator how her private insurance was denying anesthesia and hospital charges for her daughter’s recent surgery that had been pre-approved.
#2 Many attendees have given practical suggestions to the Senator on how to improve Medicare, but without results.