Speaking to a women’s health care forum at the downtown Nashville Library Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper and a panel of local health care experts discussed the facts and fictions of health care reform.
“It’s incredible, the misinformation about this bill,” Cooper told the crowd of mostly women. He explained that the bill is “not going to hurt anyone” and will cut $700 billion annually of waste from the health care system.
He talked somewhat at length about the cost impact and cost-curbing measures of the $940 billion reform package. With a graph comparing the country’s health care spending with the cost of the bill (with the line indicating current spending soaring far above the legislation’s cost), he said it’s “not going to break the bank.” In fact, delaying reform, he said, costs about $16 billion per day.
“It really costs more to argue about it than to solve the problem,” he said.
Cooper applauded the bill’s measures to cut $50 billion annually from Medicare, the government’s health insurance plan for Americans age 65 and older. But he noted that more must be done to curb the rate of health care spending growth, which is outpacing inflation. Taking even a 1 percent to 2 percent bite out of that growth rate would solve a substantial portion of the cost problem, he said.
Other panelists included Vanderbilt physician John Sergent, Karl Vendevender, an internist and president of The Frist Clinic Medical Group and Nancy Anness, vice president of advocacy, access and community outreach for Saint Thomas Health Services. Each echoed Cooper’s praise for the new law — and applauded the congressman’s decision to vote in favor of them.
Sergent spent time addressing several myths about reform, including the idea that people should have a choice about whether they purchase health insurance — the subject of a state legislative challenge to the national law. The problem with that argument, he said, is it “destroys the concept of insurance” because healthy people would not be paying to help subsidize sicker people (just as drivers without collisions now pay to subsidize bad drivers). It also means people avoid routine care and run the risk of having financially crippling health care bill because “no one has a clue” what their health will be like in a given year.
“People die because they do not have insurance,” Sergent said.
Anness, who is a nurse practitioner who cares only for the poor, is encouraged by estimates that say the law will cover 90 percent to 95 percent of the population. Saint Thomas’ parent company, Ascension Health, is working on a campaign to cover 100 percent of the population by 2020, she said.
“We have a ways to go,” Anness said.