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Havre part of statewide health care discussion


Tim Leeds Havre Daily News [email protected]

Havre residents joined some 350 other Montanans in a video conference Monday to talk about health care reform. Montana Change that Works, a grassroots organization working to push health care reform, put together the meeting in some 12 communities in Montana, with eight others joining Havre in the video hookup. State Sen. John Breuggeman, R-Polson, introduced and oversaw the teleconference from Helena. Other communities on the video conference were Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, Kalispell, Libby, Miles City and Missoula. The group first heard from four speakers who talked about problems they have had gettingHealth care ranging from small business owner Mike Craighill of Billings talking about not being able to afford the rising cost of health care to Deb Mattern of Billings talking about becoming ineligible for most insurance because she is a cancer survivor. After the speakers made the i r p re s enta t i ons and answered questions submitted by people from the different towns participating, David Kendall, a member of President Bill Clinton's Task Force on National Health Care Reform in 1993, discussed the different opt ions working through Washington for health care reform. Kendall focused on three main positions: A proposal being written by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and endorsed by President Barack Obama, which would provide a mixture of employer-provided, personal and public insurance. A proposal written by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which would have all individuals purchase their own insurance. A proposal by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., which would universalize Medicare and eliminate private insurance. After the discussions by video conference, the Havre participants held their own discussion, recorded by a volunteer to be sent to the lawmakers along with the other Montana comments. Havre City Council member Pam Hillery said she simply wants to see everyone covered. She said she has good coverage, and really doesn't use it much, but would be willing to have less if it meant everyone was covered. “I just want to see us all have good coverage,” she said. One common comment was the importance of prevention and healthy living, rather than waiting to receive treatment. “I think that's a key to a sustainable system,” said Sue Swan, a registered nurse. “Prevention is much cheaper.” Nurse Practitioner Arlys Williams said one problem she sees in the discussion of health care reform is who is considered a health care provider. That can be much more than just doctors, she said. “Massage therapy helps some people more than medication,” she said. Another common complaint was the prices of drugs several members of the audience talked about people traveling to Mexico or Canada and buying the same drugs, made by the same manufacturers, for a tiny fraction of the cost in the United States. Donald Bitterman said something Congress must keep in mind is that the system will never be profitable there always will be people who are unable to pay who need medical care. “But we have to do the best we can,” he said. Nurse Practitioner Karen Sloan said the important part is for local people to let their wishes be known. “We're not going to get any change if people don't get involved in the system,” she said.


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