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New Albany City Council relays confidence in universal health care

The most expensive health care in the world provides only run-of-the-mill results.

That’s how Dr. Rob Stone, an emergency room doctor in Bloomington and director of Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan, described America’s health care system during a New Albany City Council workshop Thursday.

He said Americans spend more on health care, less time in the hospital and live shorter lives than all countries that have a universal system.

Stone has been traveling around Indiana since 2005 drumming up support for House Resolution 676, a bill currently in committee in the U.S. House of Representatives that would provide universal health care.

He stated his case to the council in hopes of inducing it to lend its favor to the bill.

New Albany joined Bloomington and Indianapolis as the only cities in the state that have passed a resolution supporting the House measure. The council voted 7-1 in favor of it with Kevin Zurschmiede the lone member opposing.

Louisville has also passed a similar measure.

Why does universal health care matter to a local governing body?

That question was asked of the council by New Albany resident Jeff Roudenbush.

“It’s not a waste of time,” said John Gonder, defending the council’s decision to vote on the issue. His reasoning was simple: The city pays nearly $3 million a year for health care for its employees, so Gonder asked how could they not act?

With President-elect Barack Obama set to take office next week coupled with 91 House co-sponsors of the bill, Stone said now is the time to make universal health care a national dialogue.

The evidence he provided contrasted America’s health care system with other countries that have a universal system. Stone likes Canada’s system, which he paralleled to Medicare.

Canada has a single payer system where hospitals and doctors remain privately employed but the only payer of medical bills is the government. He said this is different than a socialized system where everything is owned by the government.

There are 18,000 deaths a year in America that are the result of lack of insurance, according to Stone.

“It’s an epidemic” that’s “totally preventable,” Stone said. People could seek preventative measures to ward off illnesses if everyone had health care, he added.

Part of the H.R. 676 proposal is eliminating what is known as the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $200,000 a year, and using a seven percent payroll tax to flip the health care bill.

This would provide everyone with health insurance and could actually save money, Stone said. Employers who provide adequate insurance for their workers usually spend more than seven percent, according to Stone.

The payroll tax would be split between the worker and employer, but all would save by not having to pay high insurance premiums, Stone said.

Stone obviously isn’t fond of health insurance companies and stated several times that passing H.R. 676 would lead to the termination of some jobs.

He blames insurance companies for high rates that are in part responsible for so many being uninsured.

Stone said he deals with the situations everyday: a patient comes to the emergency room with an illness that could have been prevented, but that person canceled their health coverage so they could buy groceries and gasoline.

Stone said the financial aspect of health insurance companies is also failing.

“I think we should phase them out before we have to bail them out,” Stone said.

The cost for covering all of the uninsured in America is $120 billion, according to Stone. He said that need trumps the $700 billion approved by Congress for a financial bailout.

Opponents of universal health care say the waits to see a physician can be lengthy. Stone countered that when health care is cheap and inclusive, people try to find something to complain about.

He said that in Canada, you can go online and find out the exact wait to see any doctor you wish, making the system more transparent than in America where you have no idea how long you’ll be waiting.

A representative from Congressman Baron Hill’s office attended the workshop and subsequent council meeting where the supporting measure was passed.

Hill has said he’s open to the idea of universal health care but has not voiced a decision on H.R. 676 publicly.

Gonder said hopefully more cities will pass a supporting resolution to show Hill and other members of Congress that the need for a change is great.

This article is by Daniel Suddeath from www.news-tribune.net.

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