Alexa

Problems with US health care only getting worse

 Heath and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle takes notes during his meeting with seniors to discuss health care, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, ...
 Heath and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle listens as he meets with seniors to discuss health care, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, at the Cong...
 Heath and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle, right, listens during his meeting with seniors to discuss health care, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 20...

Daschle

Heath and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle takes notes during his meeting with seniors to discuss health care, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, ...

Daschle

Heath and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle listens as he meets with seniors to discuss health care, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, at the Cong...

Daschle

Heath and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle, right, listens during his meeting with seniors to discuss health care, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 20...

Problems in the U.S. health care system have only grown more severe since a series of meetings on the topic more than two years ago yielded few results. So President-elect Barack Obama's transition team has set up a new round of public sessions it hopes will translate into real changes this time.
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Obama's choice for secretary of health and human services, said Tuesday the increased problems since the 2005-2006 meetings should ensure action in Congress.
"We wouldn't have had 8,500 of these discussions in a two-week period over the Christmas holidays a few years ago," Daschle said. "This is an indication of the degree of severity and concern that people have all over the country."
The public meetings orchestrated by Obama's transition team resemble an effort that took place in 2005 and 2006. Congress created its Citizens Health Care Working Group that heard from 6,650 people at 84 meetings around the country and more than 14,000 in an Internet survey.
The group's recommendations were not acted on. The recommendations included guaranteeing health coverage for specific checkups and treatments and protecting consumers from high medical expenses.
A key message to Obama in the renewed sessions. Health reform doesn't have to be all about expanding health insurance. It can be about the little things too, such as shorter waits in the doctor's office and putting in place incentives such as free checkups that catch little problems before they become big ones.
That was the message Tuesday from two-dozen seniors who gave their views about what ails America's health care system to Daschle. They listed a broad range of concerns, from four-hour waits to see a doctor, to the high cost of prescription drugs, to lack of Medicare coverage for certain treatments and medical devices. Medicare is the government health insurance program for the elderly and disabled.
Daschle said conversations like Tuesday's will put the new administration "on the right track" for overhauling the U.S. health care system after Obama becomes president on Jan. 20.
Alethea Campbell said she wanted more emphasis on medical research, particularly for Alzheimer's Disease. "My family is loaded with Alzheimer's. I feel like I'm going to be a victim of it," she said. "What is going to happen to me four or five years down the road. Who is going to take care of me?"
Eugene Kinlow wants greater emphasis on helping people live more healthy lifestyles. "A major part of the cost problem is us. We keep driving up the cost of health care, all of us, in our daily behavior and habits," he said.
And Frederick Gore wants medical providers to be less concerned about how they are going to be paid when a patient walks into their room with urgent medical conditions. "The other patients could see there was something wrong with me," he said. "I'm sitting there and can barely breathe and he's looking at how he's going to get paid."
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Daschle said lawmakers will be more likely to take up health reform if there is enough pressure from voters. In a book published earlier this year, he urged the next president to quickly capitalize on the good will that comes with a new administration. He said the meetings will add to the sense of urgency.
"It will lead to members of Congress taking note. It will lead to governors taking note," Daschle said in an interview. "It's going to lead to a greater degree of commitment on the part of elected people."
About 25 people talked to Daschle about the problems they have confronted with the health care system. Most participate in Medicare.
Although they had coverage for most treatments, they were not short of suggestions for improving the health care system. Some described waiting three or four hours before they could be seen by a doctor. Others talked of how they helped pay health care costs for uninsured children and grandchildren. And some longed for a return of the days when teenagers volunteered to work at the local hospital or at local senior centers.
"It's conversations like this that put us on the right track," Daschle told the audience. "It's discussions like this that give us a better understanding of how it should be done."