Path Home Shows 2009 Show Archive September 2009 Show 0937 Healthcare Reform

Healthcare Reform

Few domestic issues have been more hotly debated han the promise of affordable healthcare for all. It touches every American life, while also driving our economy.
Healthcare Reform

At the doctor's

Show Dates

Show 0937: Healthcare Reform

Air date: September 13, 2009



Rob:  The promise of affordable healthcare for all is a hotly debated issue these days; and rightly so.  Few issues are more complex than healthcare.  It touches every American's life, while also driving our economy.  Increasingly, it’s clear that the U S healthcare system is on an unsustainable path.  Per person, we spend close to double what other industrialized nations do.  Yet, we still have about forty-seven million uninsured Americans whose only medical option is a hospital emergency room.  And it’s such concerns that packed town hall meetings around our state.

Rob:  From packed church auditoriums, to smaller civic clubs, democracy spoke up this summer.

Congressman Frank Lucas:  Every community that I did an August town meeting one year ago, and repeated with an August town meeting this year, the turnout was ten times larger, not ten percent, ten times larger.

Rob:  Congressman Frank Lucas represents Oklahoma’s sprawling 3rd congressional district.

Lucas:  It’s an amazing, the outpouring of people.  And they’re not just political activists of one side or the other. In my small communities, I know all those people, both sides of the political spectrum.  These people are overwhelmingly real folks, first time attendees, never been to a town meeting before.  That says something about what’s rumbling across the countryside.

Rob:  Which is predominantly, concern over the future of U S healthcare, Representative Lucas was greeted at this stop with a rally by those favoring a public option.

Gladeen Allred:  Public option is an option, not a mandate.  You can still have private insurance and your present coverage.

Rob:  Gladeen Allred is president of Stillwater’s League of Women Voters, and says contrary to popular opinion, public options for healthcare are nothing new.

Allred:  Public option is a government administered program similar to Medicare.  And Medicare’s been around since the 60’s, and we haven’t become socialized medicine.  We still have private insurance, and so this is an option.

Rob:  But enacting a system that would cover all Americans could cost almost one-point-six trillion dollars, an expense that has little support among Oklahoma’s congressional delegation.

Rob:  Senator, in terms of healthcare reform, what is going to be the hardest on our economy, doing too much or doing too little?

Coburn:  By far, doing too much; because the risk is, when you do too much you take what is good with our healthcare and hurt it, in the name of fixing what is not good.

Rob:  Dr. Tom Coburn, has earned a reputation among his Senate colleagues for his work to trim federal spending, and says it’s a mistake to create more government bureaucracy when private enterprise works better.

Coburn:  Eighty percent of our healthcare is great, twenty percent isn’t.  And most of that twenty percent has to do with access based on way too high a cost.  Any bill that comes out of congress that spends more money on healthcare is an abject failure.  Because what it fails to recognize is that we’re spending twice as much as any country in the world, even though we’ve got great outcomes, especially on acute disease management.  And we’re not incentivizing the management of chronic disease.  So the first answer that comes out of Washington, it ought to cost less not more.  And the second is, we ought to make sure we empower what is working well to stay; and address that which is not working well, which is prevention, wellness, and management of chronic disease.  You start controlling those, that’s 75% of the cost of healthcare.  And so, we can fix it, but you don’t have to tear up the whole system to fix it.  You don’t have to remove people from what they like in the name of fixing it.  So that’s the real risk.

Rob:  At a town hall meeting in Del City, Dr. Coburn told the audience he favors a system with…

Coburn:  Real transparency and real competition in the insurance industry, and if that happens, we’ll all get a better deal, including the insurance industry.

Rob:  Views that have been attracting not just national, but international attention.  Marion Schmickler was part of a TV crew from Germany’s ARD Television Network attending the forum, to ask about Americans reluctance to support healthcare for everyone.

Marion Schmickler:  I am sometimes very surprised about how people judge this German system, because when I see it from the American perspective, I would say the German healthcare system is a bit like heaven.  If I go to the doctor here, I see the prices, I see how many people don’t have an insurance at all, which doesn’t exist in Germany; everybody has an insurance.

Rob:  Under the German system, private insurers compete for business under a tightly regulated system that is funded through a payroll tax.  The unemployed are then pooled together, while the elderly have their insurance paid for through pension funds, a publicly funded system that is privately driven, something U S Representative Frank Lucas says could be a model for reform in this country.

Frank Lucas:  Since the 1870’s the German government has made a policy of trying to meet the healthcare needs of their citizens.  Right now as I understand it, they have a system basically where 400-plus companies compete for 40 million-plus Germans’ business.  It’s not Medicare; it’s not exactly Medicaid, but it’s making sure every citizen has a healthcare policy.

Rob:  And a system that costs less than half of what we spend in this country.  A United Nations study shows per capita, the United States spends twice as much on healthcare than other industrialized nations.  Even though countries like Canada, France, Germany, and Japan, cover their entire population while spending less.

Gladeen Allred:  That’s what’s important, that everyone has fair, equitable and accessible health insurance.

Rob:  A growing argument that the health of our nation may just come down to the health of its citizens.