Panel addresses health-care reform concerns

Despite months and months of discussion about health-care reform, many people still have many questions about what it will mean.

It was no different Thursday night at the Macon NAACP Health Care Forum.

The event was sponsored by the Macon-Bibb County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the Steward Chapel AME Church on Forsyth Street in Macon.

At the start of the forum, church pastor the Rev. Charles Lewis said to the gathering of about 25 people that the forum was not an endorsement of President Obama’s health-care reform plan, but an opportunity to share concerns and ask questions.

On the panel was long-time political consultant Ken King, a regional field director for Organizing for America, which is a project of the Democratic National Committee and the successor organization for President Obama’s campaign. Also, Dr. James Beverly, a local optometrist who currently is attending Harvard University on a fellowship, sat on the panel. State Sen. Robert Brown, D-Macon, was the forum’s facilitator.

King pointed out that consumers now can be dropped or denied insurance for several reasons, and that health-care costs are so high that some people are having to choose between eating and keeping their insurance.

“Right now the system does not have consumer protection,” King said.

“We need to pass a health-care bill ... that allows real competition for people who don’t like their insurance or the way they’ve been treated ... to be able to purchase (another policy).”

In response to a question about how the reform would affect small businesses, King said the cost of inaction would be worse than it is now.

“The system is completely broken and is running people out of business,” he said.

“People are filing bankruptcy right now because of medical bills. If we continue to spend money that we are on health care, we won’t be able to hire employees.”

The panelists told attendees that they should be careful where they get their information about the various bills being discussed in Washington.

King pointed out that the public policy part of the reform is only one part of what’s being discussed.

“We don’t have a bill,” he said, adding that various bills still were being discussed and nothing is final. “Some of the bills in committee have public option and some don’t.”

Beverly said there is a “huge disparity” in what rate is paid to doctors depending on where in the country they live.

Some language being discussed would pay doctors at the Medicare rate plus 5 percent, he said.

“So, a standardized fee schedule should be across America,” he said. “If that language is not spelled out, then I wouldn’t be for this. ... Also if you don’t have public option in the bill ... I don’t think it will have what it needs to protect most people.”

One misconception is that the reform would pay for abortion, and that the government would force people to sign with a particular insurance company, King said

“None of the bills say anything about paying for an abortion and they don’t pay for illegal immigrants,” he said.

“And if you have insurance, you can keep it.”

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.