Professionals, Advocates Work to Highlight Benefits of Federal Health Care

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

As Congress prepares to battle over the newly enacted Health care reform law, Alaskan health care professionals and reform advocates are working to highlight what they see as the benefits of the federal overhaul.

At a forum sponsored by the Alaska Public Health Association last week in Anchorage, AARP advocacy director Pat Luby said the reform will be especially beneficial for 60 percent of AARP members who are under age 65 and still in the workplace. Luby said 20 percent of Alaskans between 50 and 64 have no health insurance.

Luby says far too many elders think that long term care, whether in a nursing home or at home will be paid for by Medicare once they reach age 65.

He says nursing home care averages $4 to $500 per day in Alaska. Luby says perhaps surprisingly, the primary opponents of health care reform are AARP members.

Doctor Tom Hunt is the CEO for physician services at Providence Health and Services in Alaska. He says the rhetoric and scare tactics swirling around what should be serious, respectful dialogue about someone’s final days has been unfortunate. His group wants to lead with a coherent approach to end of life discussions.

The need for more physicians in primary care was also highlighted.

Shelly Hughes is the Government Affairs director for the Alaska Primary Care Association. She says, in other countries, primary care is huge, specialized care is small and patients have better outcomes. She says the U.S. government should invest in primary care and provide incentives for students.

Other benefits touted by the panel were the elimination of insurance companies rejecting someone for a pre-existing condition. Life time caps for medical expenses were also eliminated under the reform package. Children with severe diseases such as leukemia were hitting those limits as early as age 12.

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