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Health care questions answered by panel
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NAPLES — An emphasis on preventive care to better control costs, the need for tort reform and the reality that taxpayers would be tapped to pay for change were among prevailing positions from panelists during a health-care reform town hall meeting Wednesday night in Naples.
“How do we pay for that? It can only come from a few places, taxes or your costs for services will increase,” said Dr. Joseph Gauta, a Naples gynecologist/obstetrician and president of the Collier County Medical Society. “It’s unavoidable. We won’t be able to get that from any where else but from our own citizens.”
An overflowing crowd of about 200 people packed the community room at the Daily News for the town hall meeting, organized by state Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, and the Greater Naples Area Chamber of Commerce. An overflow crowd spilled out into the front lobby to watch the 90-minute town hall meeting carried live on naplesnews.com.
Mike Reagen, the chamber president and chief executive officer, served as moderator and often had to keep the audience on target with their questions.
Along with Gauta and Hudson, other panelists were Dr. Allen Weiss, president and chief executive officer of the NCH Healthcare System and Steven E. Hemping, chairman of the Collier County Democratic Executive Committee.
Audience members were invited to ask questions and participants could send in questions via Twitter, with audiences set up at Florida Gulf Coast University, Edison State College and Hodges University in Naples and from schools in Broward County, which is also part of Hudson’s district.
During opening statements, Weiss emphasized that health-care reform has to involve changing the system for delivering health care so it is less expensive and the second most important component is prevention.
“The facts speak for themselves, for every $1 spent, 75 cents goes to chronic care,” Weiss said. “Eighty-three cents on Medicare is spent on chronic illnesses.”
Gauta said that as a physician he would not accept someone getting between himself and his patients and he said tort reform is critical, which garnered huge applause from the audience.
“These are very sensitive issues and polarize people but you can’t have a comprehensive debate without it,” he said.
Several questions from the audience focused on the highly contentious issue of a public option for people currently uninsured, with Hemping responding that the public option already exists with Medicare, adding that the United States is the only industrialized country that doesn’t offer health care to its citizens.
To the question of whether insurance under reform measures would be guaranteed and not discriminate for people with existing medical conditions, Hemping said that would be part of the plan.
“If we get the proper insurance reform, it will be guaranteed issue, there will be no pre-existing conditions,” he said. “The funding question is still up in the air.”
A Twitter questioner asked whether there are provisions in the package that would prevent citizens from losing quality of care similar to what’s been experienced in the United Kingdom and Canada.
“We already have a challenge in Florida finding providers who will take Medicaid payment,” Hudson said. “Quality is going to suffer. A great deal of work needs to be done as it relates to quality.”
Weiss was asked to field a question whether people should have or be required to have catastrophic health-care coverage.
“I think everyone should have and deserves to have catastrophic care but you could make the argument for preventive care,” Weiss said.
Weiss and Gauta repeatedly emphasized the huge role that preventive care would need to serve in health-care reform.
“We still have the ability to make choices,” Gauta said referring to food, vices and exercise. “Any health-care reform measure will have to deal strongly with preventive care and not just treatment of expensive diseases.”
Gauta also was asked if doctors would opt out of a public option if that passed in any reform measure.
Gauta responded that the hope is physicians will join in and provide the care.
Staff writer I.M. Stackel contributed to this report.