Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Whitehouse Regional Forum Gets NC Talking About Health Reform

This morning North Carolinians had an honest, direct and, at times, emotional discussion about healthcare in North Carolina. Many of the issues discussed resonate with people all over America. Nancy-Ann Parle attended on behalf of the Obama administration. Parle is the director of the White House Office on Health Reform.

She asked of health insurance recipients what specific healthcare issues did they want her to convey to the Obama Administration. Of professionals she asked what were they committed to that would ensure a better future in healthcare and where the administration could support. Governor Beverly Perdue moderated the forum and stressed the need for health and wellness programs in North Carolina and nationally.

Governor Perdue talked about this proactive strategy as a long term solution to controlling healthcare costs. The Governor thinks one of the best ways to drive down healthcare costs is through education and services targeted at overall health and well-being. She also said it was necessary for Washington to provide funds and support for education and programs on health and wellness.

Many policy issues were unearthed as people told their stories and gave their take on healthcare. Physician Kevin James of Shelby NC, talked about his proposal, which he had sent to the Governor, about providing a tax credit to physicians who treat patients. He emphasized that, although funds were involved, the proposal eliminated the direct transfer of money and freed up doctors to provide care to whomever without having to worry about how they'd be compensated.

Another physician said he had to forego malpractice insurance after it cost him $44,000 per year. Small businesses and entrepreneurs discussed their inability to provide healthcare for all their employees. Others requiring long term health coverage or services discussed a frustration with the portability of Medicaid. Many programs and community centers also turned out and set up booths in the main lobby to give their perspective on healthcare and how their organization fits into its future.

In 2006-07, across the five southern states of GA, NC, SC, TN and VA, there were 457,000 non-elderly uninsured with family incomes less than 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or about $20,650 for a family of four in 2007. Those eighteen to thirty-four years of age had the highest rates of uninsurance in all five states. More than one in four of this group were uninsured. Employees in firms with fewer than 25 employees made up about half of all uninsured workers. And 1/3 of employees at these small firms were uninsured in each of the five states.

Rates of uninsurance were higher in rural areas than urban and from 2000 o 2007 rates of uninsurance have increased by 1.5 to 4.7 percentage points in each of the five states.

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