Power Breakfast panel debates health care reform

October 17, 2009


As health care legislation continues to wend its way through Congress, Indianapolis-area industry leaders still harbor strong opinions about the issue.

Five industry insiders discussed how to improve the health care system during IBJ’s Power Breakfast Sept. 25 at the Westin Indianapolis. The following is an edited transcript of the free-wheeling discussion, peppered with video highlights of the discussion (see following pages).

The panelists:

Dr. Mercy Obeime, a family physician and medical director of the St. Francis Neighborhood Health Center at Garfield Park.

Dan Krajnovich, Indiana CEO of the Minnesota-based health insurer UnitedHealthcare.

Kyle DeFur, CEO of St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital.

Dan Evans, CEO of the Clarian Health hospital system.

Dr. Craig Brater, dean of the Indiana University School of Medicine.

The discussion was moderated by IBJ reporter J.K. Wall:

As Congress has been debating health care reform through the summer, perhaps one of the biggest goals of the whole process is to cover the 46 million uninsured. What would be the impact of covering the uninsured and what’s the best way to get there?

OBEIME: I thought I would bring a patient with me to the room today. That way I could tell you about their situation and we can all decide how to make life easier for this person and to make things better for all of us. He’s a 57-year-old Caucasian man. He had worked very hard in sales, and he decided to quit at the age of 57 because sales were low, he wasn’t making any money. He thought he would quit and then start doing some things on his own.

Before he did that, he went online and got insurance for him and his family for $500 a month—he, his wife and his son. Well, when his first bill was submitted and the insurance company realized that he had multiple diagnoses, they promptly dropped him. They, however, did not reduce the premium for the family.

So from this point on he struggled to try to get some medicine. He was trying to refill his prescriptions by going to the emergency room. Well, he shows up in my office last year. I saw him on Sept. 2 of this year. He had had an accident the day before, a motor vehicle accident. He got confused while he was driving. The police came and thought he was drunk. Finally, when he was able to tell them that he was diabetic, and they gave him some glucose, he was feeling better.

My first question was, “Why did you not go to the emergency room?” “Well, I already owe too much and I didn’t want to go. I figured you would take care of me today.” Well, I took care of him. I raised his medication. More importantly, I spent a lot of time educating him about hypoglycemia and about what could have happened that made him get in that accident.

It is poverty for any country, for any human being to deny access to another human being for something as vital as health care because we are worried about how much it will cost. I believe that the most important asset we have is our life. If we cannot invest in our life, what is the use of investing in anything else? If we think it is too costly to take care of our fellow Americans, how can we justify doing all the other things that we’re doing across the world?

KRAJNOVICH: I completely agree with Dr. Obeime. We must cover all Americans. The health care system that we have today should be afforded to everybody. Certainly there are things that we can do with the regulations out there, bringing more uniformity with regulations across the country so that we can offer access, eliminate pre-existing condition clauses, not rate folks on their health status or gender. With those, then it’s easier to also mandate coverage for everyone, providing either tax relief or funding for the low-income and moderate-income families that would be caught in a situation like that.

EVANS: Well, thanks for putting the two “Dans” in the wooden chairs. Well, first of all, everybody should know that both the House version that passed this summer and the Baucus [bill] did not insure a hundred percent of Americans and insured zero percent of undocumented aliens. So even if the bill that passed the House passes or the Baucus bill passes, it’s going to range between 91 and 94 percent of everybody covered because we’ve got 5 or 6 percent that each of the hospitals and doctors’ offices deal with that are undocumented or will fall through the cracks. So these bills are about how much it costs and not about insuring every American, regrettably.

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