First Posted: 12/30/2008
About 15 people gathered Tuesday at Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care to discuss their concerns regarding health care, and share those opinions with president elect Barack Obamas administration.
The local hospice center hosted the community-wide meeting to gather public comments on health care issues for use by the Obama-Biden transition team to find out what can be done to improve the health care system.
The center did so after receiving encouragement from The American Association of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, which had been contacted by the Obama-Biden team encouraging various groups and their constituents to assemble informal health-care forums in their communities.
Dr. Glenn Golaszewski, Mountain Valley Hospices Medical Director, facilitated the forum that included some residents, but mostly other health care professionals.
I think its important to do this because you never know what the general public is thinking unless you ask, Golaszewski said following the forum. Ive never known any president who asked what the general public thinks.
The gathering was one of a few thousand taking place across the nation.
During the 90-minute meeting Golaszewski asked questions provided by the Obama-Biden team, some including:
What do you perceive is the biggest problem in the health system?
How do you choose a doctor or hospital? What are your sources of information? How should public policy promote quality health care providers?
Would you like the option to purchase a private plan through an insurance-exchange or a public plan like Medicare?
Do you know how much your employer pays for health insurance? What should an employers role be in a reformed health care system?
How can public policy promote healthier lifestyles?
Participants were asked to both answer and provide any suggestions for solutions to the issues covered in the meeting. While their perspectives differed, they agreed on many of the proposed solutions.
Among the top suggestions: There should be incentives for people who work hard to maintain good health or those who maintain a good health should pay less for premiums than those who make poor health choices such as smoking. The group also agreed that there are not enough educational initiatives by insurance companies and health care providers to inform people about developing preventive habits, and letting patients know about health screenings and check-ups.
People lose track of everything thats suppose to be done, said one participant, referring to medical check-ups.
Another major concern for the group was the level of treatment or access to health care for those who have insurance versus those who werent insured.
Ive seen Medicaid-eligible patients receive better care than those that can afford (health insurance), said a participant, who worked in the health care industry. Its the abuse of the system and its overuse.
Sheila Jones, the director of development at the Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care, said its not uncommon for patients to find themselves in difficult situations where they have to make a choice between buying food or paying medical bills or medication because they are not entirely covered or lack insurance.
Weve lost the knowledge of health care we ought to have, Jones said. The education piece is needed.
Linda MacDonald, who works in a chiropractic office in Elkin, said there was no unfamiliar issue to her that was discussed at the meeting she had heard it all from various patients in the clinic where she works.
Ive had times in my life where things were not okay, but were okay now, she said referring to issues shes faced with health insurance in the past. Ive been there enough to know.
She added that the meeting was a smart opportunity for the president-elect to learn about the issues facing the country hell lead.
If they (the government) ask and we dont tell them, we dont have the right to complain, she said. We are in trouble and there needs to be something done to fix it. I appreciate Dr. Golaszewski for doing this.
Following the meeting, participants received a three-question survey asking for their perceptions on the biggest problem in the health care system, such as how they choose a hospital or doctor, how to handle the problem of high medical bills, and others.
The surveys will be compiled into a report that will be sent to the Obama-Biden team.
Contact Erin C. Perkins at [email protected] or 719-1952.