Residents have questions for Obama
September 9, 2009
Tim Leeds and Alice Campbell Havre Daily News
President Barack Obama's speech to the nation tonight will get widespread attention in north-central Montana. The address will focus on his proposed reform of the health care system. The Havre Daily News interviewed four people involved in health care and insurance to find out what they hoped the president would have to say. We will check back with them after the speech to see if they are satisfied with what he had to say. Karen Bradway "Being a community health center, it's obviously important, I think, that we address the problem with so many people not being insured," said Karen Bradway, the executive director of Sweet Medical Center in Chinook, about what Obama should address during the Health care reform process. Often, it's not that people aren't uninsured entirely, but they have no "practical insurance" because of high premiums. It's a way that people insure themselves at a cost they can afford and "so that they literally won't end up losing the farm," she said. In her 35 years in health care, Bradway's seen preventive services get better and more numerous, "and I think that's wonderful," she said. It's another area that she said she thinks should be addressed by health care reformists. "I think people underestimate the benefit of preventative health care," she said, staying well and "catching problems early so that they don't become serious." She said that especially with the tight economy, people save money by not going to the doctor unless absolutely necessary, but they don't have to come every month or, in some cases, even every year for preventative care. Some tests are recommended once every two or three years, she said, adding that there are Web sites that people can peruse to get an idea of how often they should be tested for different things. "Those are some reasonable guidelines that people really need to pay attention to, otherwise stuff really tends to sneak up on them," she said. If more people took part in preventative v i s i t s, "we wouldn't have as many really sick people; people would be healthier overall," she said, adding those people would "stay healthy rather than recovering from an illness." Max Erickson Max Erickson, an insurance agent at Erickson-Baldwin Insurance Associates in Havre, said there are a lot of factors that play into health care reform. "Health care expense is a result of a lot of different problems, and if you're going to reform health care, you've got to look at each part of the puzzle," he said. "I think there's a place for health care reform, but I think there are several ways to do that involving a combination of things," including tort reform and tax incentives, he said. He wants to hear more specifics from Obama during his speech about "exactly what he's trying to do," Erickson said. "I'm a little confused, and if I had more detail, I could make a decision whether to support his plan or not," he said. "Everything I've heard so far is very vague," he added. The multiple plans circulating make it confusing. "There are several proposals out there, and it's just unclear to me what exactly is President Obama's proposal," Erickson said. Lori Henderson Lori Henderson, administrator of Northern Montana Hospital's long-term care center, said she has many concerns, both as a health care provider and as a health care and insurance consumer, she wants Obama to address. The biggest is the cost, she said. “The question that keeps coming up is, how are we going to pay for it?” Henderson said. She said one of her major concerns is about long-term care the focus seems to be on home- and community-based services for the elderly, and ignores the segment of the population that needs specialized care for illness, infirmity or problems like Alzheimer's disease. “There has to be a way to take care of our sickest sick and oldest old,” she said. Henderson said she is concerned that the health care reform will be paid for by cutting money for long-term care and cutting Medicaid and Medicare. Henderson said she also is concerned that a uniform approach will be applied, rather than letting states tailor their programs. Delivering health care in Montana is different than delivering it in Seattle or even North Dakota or South Dakota, she said. As a consumer, Henderson said, she wants to know what will happen with government plans overall will a new program replace existing programs like Medicare, Medicaid a n d t h e Ve t e r a n s ' Administration health plan, or will those still be there? Part of that question, she added, is whether another layer of bureaucracy and cost and regulation will go over top of existing regulations and costs to administer a new program. Brad Lotton Brad Lotton of Havre, owner a n d o p e ra to r o f Lo t to n Construction and a member and former chair of the Hill County Republican Central Committee, sounded dubious that he would hear anything he wants to know in Obama's speech. “It concerns me that we're losing our liberties and moving toward socialism,” Lotton said. “At this point, everything (Obama has) said is geared toward socialism.” Lotton said he doubts that he will hear Obama say anything about what he believes is the only thing to reduce the cost in health care tort reform. Lotton said that until the costs of lawsuits are under control, the costs of health care can't be controlled. He added that he wants to hear that all of the nation's senators and representatives also will have to go on any plan Washington would force on the rest of the nation's citizens and that they will give up their federal pensions to go on Social Security like the rest of the citizens. “I've got $20 on this that says I won't hear any of that,” he said. Lotton said everyone regardless of political affiliation is concerned about the issue of health care and that the lawmakers in Washington aren't listening to them. “No matter what party you are you're for the best for your country,” Lotton said.