Get a Life

By Judith Welles

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Get a Life: Talking transition and health care

The Obama transition team came close to home, locally that is.  Two different community discussions on health care reform, in response to the Obama-Biden Transition Team, were held in Bethesda and Cabin John, Md.

An interested citizen who happens to be a federal employee and health policy analyst, not associated with the transition, voluntarily led one of the discussions.  I attended to see how it went and add my two cents.

For more than 90 minutes, a diverse group of 19 interested people conversed about the challenges and opportunities in reforming the U.S. health care system.  The event, held at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, Md., was one of thousands that took place during the last two weeks of December.  

Among this small but fairly representative group were four physicians (the National Institutes of Health, after all, is in Bethesda), one person without health insurance, several who called themselves underinsured, some with Medicare and others concerned about a lack of preventive health services for their children.  

They followed the format provided by the transition team, answering a set of questions and checking off a brief survey. The first question was the most controversial:  what do you perceive to be the biggest problem in the health system?   

Ideas were as diverse as the group, but the common theme was that everyone felt some fear or some frustration about the health care system today. Most felt the biggest problem was the number of people without health insurance.  One physician said he couldn’t see how it would be possible to put universal health care on top of a broken system.

An elderly person said the Medicare drug program is not working. A federal employee commented that even the federal health insurance program, “the best of the best,” had problems.  She cited the Blue Cross change to less coverage and more expense for out-of-network surgery.   

On health care delivery, commenters talked about human contact being devalued, high costs of care, and need for more preventive services such as weight loss and nutrition.  One suggested the need for a physician-assisted “health-ipedia” Web site to advise on common illnesses such as colds.   

For my two cents, I talked about bringing health care providers into the 21st century with greater use of Web-based technology. I also suggested ending the plethora of pharmaceutical ads on television.  Small ideas, perhaps, but aimed at reducing health care costs.  

A last survey question was how follow-up should occur – more community group discussion, White House summit, or congressional hearings on C-Span?  

This issue has been talked and talked about for a decade or more.  It is now time for the Obama team to come up with an action plan.  

Posted by Judith Welles on Jan 06, 2009 at 12:12 PM


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