Speakout lets locals voice views on health care

From Gainesville.com

Dr. Lynn Chacko put her money where her philosophy is.

Chacko told those gathered at a speakout on health care Saturday that she gave up a profitable job as a private physician in South Florida to work for the Veterans Administration in Gainesville.

“I had a wonderful group of patients, but I could not keep practicing in that environment. My conscience would not let me — because of the way our health-care system is, I could only spend less than 15 minutes with most patients. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to meet my overhead,” Chacko said. “In 2010, I decided to leave private practice and took a huge pay cut, but it was the best decision I ever made in my professional career. I work for the Veterans Administration, which is probably the closest thing to national health care we have in this country.”

Saturday’s speakout was organized by the Alachua County Labor Party along with Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Gainesville. The event was held in the Bo Diddley Community Plaza in downtown Gainesville.

Chacko said that the insured patients she saw in private practice were having difficulty affording co-pays as the economy weakened. Many could not afford specialists or preventative medicine.

While the veterans health-care system is not perfect, she added, the health outcomes are better for its patients than for those with private insurance.

Other speakers related their experiences with health care and insurance. One recurring theme was that of excessive costs, whether for patients or insurance companies. Those companies also came up for criticism.

Albert Meyer, of Gainesville, recalled how he fell while competing in a 5K race and cut his face. He went to the emergency room and was hit with a bill that included $12,000 for CT scans.

University of Florida graduate student Christina Van Houten, who also teaches classes, said she will soon be earning her doctorate degree but added she fears not being able to find a job that will offer adequate and affordable health insurance.

“I’m tired of health care being a privilege,” she said. “I’m tired of my health care being inconsistent. I’m tired of my health care having to be more cost-effective for my employer and my insurance provider.”