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Obama's transition team to hear Tri-City health care ideas

 | Published on 1/12/2009

Health care is a right, not a privilege, health care officials and community members who attended last month's Columbia Basin Badger Club forum on health care reform agreed by a margin of 6-1.

That and other opinions expressed by the nearly 50 people who attended the forum then were listed on a report sent to the Obama-Biden transition team. The team had invited citizens across the U.S. to participate in an estimated 8,500 neighborhood discussions on health care reform.

Many at the Tri-City health reform discussion said the right to health care is not being carried out effectively because of the fractured nature of the U.S. health care system and an emphasis on treating illness instead of prevention.

"Our system is a train wreck: Cost too high, access too low, system is too complex, uncaring, bureaucratic," the report said.

And some at the forum said the questions provided by the transition team didn't go far enough to address health care system overhaul.

Among those questions were: "In addition to employer-based coverage, would you like the option of a private plan through an insurance exchange or public plan?" and "Do you know how much your employer pays for health insurance? What should the employer's role be?"

Brooke DuBois, executive director of the Benton-Franklin Community Health Alliance, said to make real change policy makers cannot simply "tinker" with what the U.S. already has in place. "That's not a good place to start," she said.

Marc Harden, president of the Badger Club, said he hopes even small fixes to the health care system will result from the community discussions and plans stemming from the new White House Office of Health Reform.

"Even one oar stuck in the water will turn the Titanic. It will take a while," he said. "A subtle change here, a subtle change there can create enormous alterations in the way the system works."

Many of the report's critiques of the U.S. health system and recommendations focus on prevention.

"I think there's a lack of focus on prevention (to) keep people healthy," Sandy Owen, the Benton-Franklin Health District's director of preventive health services, said at the community discussion.

Schools need to put more emphasis on teaching nutrition and promoting physical activity, the report said. Also, it recommended that policy needs to be put in place to promote community planning that supports walking and cycling as alternatives to driving, that employers need to promote healthy lifestyles, and that economic incentives for healthy lifestyle choices need to be considered.

Educating children about healthy lifestyles and continuing that education into adulthood is recommended in the report. It also recommends mandatory preventive testing for basic health issues for children elementary age and younger.

"To get where we need to be there are some societal things that are necessary," said Mark Brault, the board president of Kennewick's Grace Clinic. "Today we have a sick care system, not a health care system."

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