Forum discusses health care

by Bryce Haugen

Health-care issues deserve more than a superficial exploration, Americans for Informed Democracy President Luke Robinson said Tuesday.

That’s the message Robinson said he hopes resonated with the 50 people who attended a discussion about health care in Coffman Union. During the event, three expert panelists identified flaws in the U.S. health-care system and said the country needs some kind of universal health coverage.

The University chapter of the national organization, sponsored the forum.

“Hopefully, (the event) allows people to begin to fully understand the complexity of the issues that involve health,” said Robinson, a biochemistry senior.

During the forum, the three panelists recited figures and offered anecdotes about U.S. health-care policy.

“It’s impossible to exaggerate how badly this system is deteriorating,” said panelist Kip Sullivan, a freelance writer who was a health-plan regulatory reform commissioner under former Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich.

Boynton Health Service Director Edward Ehlinger, one of the forum’s panelists, said that although the United States ranks first in health-care expenditures, its overall quality ranks at the bottom of the industrialized world.

He said the U.S. system is filled with waste and inefficiencies.

“At Boynton, we have more people in our billing office than our nutrition office Ö If we could get rid of that (waste), your fees would go down,” he said to the crowd.

The panelists also discussed possible solutions to what they said is a crisis.

“The effort needs to focus on the state level, and it needs to focus on organizing,” said panelist Larry Jacobs, a University political science professor.

Jacobs said that because Republicans control Congress and the White House, health-care reform will probably not happen until the system collapses.

“Sorry to be so dour,” he said under his breath to crowd laughter.

After the panelists spoke, they answered a few questions from the audience and from note cards distributed before the event.

But one audience member, Lee Kurisko, a doctor formerly from Thunder Bay, Canada, interrupted Robinson and requested a five-minute rebuttal to what he said was a one-sided discussion.

Robinson rejected the request.

Before the forum, Kurisko said that government involvement in Canada’s health-care system has been “a failure,” and he is concerned the United States is headed in that direction.

Though the majority of the audience was students, the forum – and the other forums the group has hosted – attracted a variety of people, Robinson said.

“(The forums) aren’t just interesting to savvy poli-sci people Ö We get a diverse crowd,” he said.

First-year law student Jane Gazman said a class about children without health care piqued her interest in the subject.

“The basic infrastructure of the society needs to be taken care of,” she said.

She said many people are scared away from universal health care because they do not trust government involvement.

“A lot of people turn down what could be good for them,” she said.