There were no protesters or angry screaming matches; instead, a recent town hall meeting on health care reform organized by the Queens Chamber of Commerce brought together experts in different health fields to talk about the pressing issue.
The panelists included Caryn Schwab, Executive Director, Mount Sinai Hospital Queens; Dr. Terry Golash, Sr. Medical Director, Aetna; Dr. Alvin Eden, Chief of Pediatrics at Wyckoff Hospital, in private practice as well as an author on medical care for children; Michael Rosenblut, President & CEO, Parker Jewish Institute and Ken Buettner, President, York Scaffolding.
During the nearly two-hour discussion, which took place at the Chamber on Wednesday, September 16, Queens Chamber of Commerce President Al Pennisi introduced the panel and talked about how the Chamber will bring together experts to talk about different facets of health care reform and educate businesses about the facts and myths of the debate.
After introductions, each of the panelists talked about their own area of expertise and shared their thoughts.
Schwab talked about how roughly one in four people who come into Mount Sinai Hospital Queens are uninsured and the additional challenges that creates.
“That does mean to a certain extent that the people who are insured are paying for the people who are uninsured,” Schwab said. “It also means that the buck stops with the hospital, because we are required to treat those patients regardless of whether they come in with insurance or don’t come in with insurance.”
Meanwhile, Buettner, who is the third-generation owner of York Scaffolding, said that his 85 employees have health care that costs the company on average $20,000 per person. He said that he is still waiting for a bill to come forward that he could comment on – whether it would be a benefit or hindrance.
“One way or the other, I need help as most businesses do, not just in Queens but in New York and in the United States,” Buettner said. “I’m looking forward to Washington to coming up with something that is going to help me. I don’t know what that help is, and I’m scared to death that it won’t help me.”
Another area that many of the panelists commented on was tort reform.
“Part of any kind of solution to the health care crisis to keep the costs down for businesses and for everybody else has no chance unless number one is significant tort reform,” said Dr. Alvin Eden, chief of Pediatrics at Wyckoff.
Dr. Terry Golash, Sr. Medical Director at Aetna said that his company believes that everyone should be covered, but he also talked about a number of things that could be included in the plan to make coverage options better and more affordable for small businesses.
“We would like to see a system where small businesses have the advantages that large corporations do so that whether it is through a pooling mechanism or whether it is through reforms to allow them to get the same deal,” Golash said.
Meanwhile, Michael Rosenblut, President and CEO of Parker Jewish Institute, said that it was important for people to make sure their local government representatives remember that the current senior population – and many more who will become seniors soon – don’t deserve to have any of their care negatively affected by reform.
“They must understand that everybody has a loved one that is on home care, on hospice [or] in a nursing facility that they deserve to get the best possible care and not have the rates reduced, which causes agita across the board for all the health care organizations,” Rosenblut said.
However, one theme that was prevalent among nearly all of the panelists is the many questions that still need to be answered including how the program is going to be paid for.
“The challenge is how do you insure that health reform is truly health reform and not just a reduction in reimbursements to hospitals and physicians,” Schwab said. “I think that is something that is very much unclear in terms of the bills that we have been reviewing.”
In addition, many believe that even if a health care reform bill is passed this year, true health care reform could still be far away.
“To do true health care reform is going to require us changing the way we practice medicine both in the hospital and in the office,” said Schwab, who mentioned increasing ambulatory care, disease management and Tort reform.