Five local views of the health debate

Physician Charles Cutler says he sees in his patients "how frightened people are about losing their health insurance."

In Sunday’s paper my colleague Jane Von Bergen has collected five stories from local people with stakes in the health debate raging in Washington, D.C.

Steve Udvarhelyi, executive vice president of the region’s largest health insurer, Independence Blue Cross said that the focus needs to be on expanding coverage while controlling costs and improving the quality of care. “Everybody wants to regulate insurance companies because it is politically easier to regulate premiums than it is to solve the true underlying reasons for health care costs,” he said.

Primary care doctor Charles Cutler wondered about the fear of his patients - people with insurance - who worry that the legislation in Washington will cause them to lose their insurance. “It’s a fear that’s not produced by sound reasoning. The entire discussion is to have more people insured not less.” Ultimately, Cutler hopes the effort will not be wasted. “I would have to start over … there are so many good ideas that have been proposed.”

Insurance broker Jonathan Warner was nervous about proposals to create a “single-payer” for health care, but when it became clear that such a system could not be enacted he still watched closely. He doesn’t think the current system is sustainable, nor does he want to see a solution rammed through Congressr. But Warner said, if a good solution isn’t found to control costs and hold the line on premiums there might not be an alternative but to impose a single-payer system.

Michael B. Laign runs a large organization, the Holy Redeemer Health System that is anchored by the 244-bed hospital that of the same name. Laign said the wants to move ahead with the legislation now pending “and then work together to try to fix the issues that are going to come up.” But Laign said he is troubled that the basic issues of how we pay for health care have not been addressed. He thinks a more cooperative effort is needed with everyone – hospitals, doctors, employers, and individuals – working together to lower costs by improving people’s health and reducing the need for expensive care.

Amy Fitzpatrick just wants the politicians in Washington to get health legislation enacted. Out of work and without health insurance for two years, the laid-off legal receptionist said, “We need to stop the political shenanigans and get on with it,” said Fitzpatrick, 54. People are dying. We need affordable and quality health care. It’s mind-blowing that we don’t have it.”