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Tri-Citians mull health care reform

 | Published on 12/31/2008

As Curt Freed, dean of Columbia Basin College's health sciences department, hung three poster-sized sheets of suggestions for improving the nation's health, Dr. Larry Jecha put his hand on his shoulder.

"I hope you solved our problems," said the Benton-Franklin Health District's health officer.

Problems might not have been solved Tuesday night during a community discussion about health care reform, but the nearly 50 people who attended the Columbia Basin Badger Club event in Kennewick hope they'll be heard.

The Obama-Biden transition team and Sen. Tom Daschle, secretary-designate for Health and Human Services, have invited citizens across the U.S. to participate in neighborhood discussions and to share ideas about health care reform.

It was the Tri-Cities' turn Tuesday.

"I don't believe (the U.S. health care system) is a system," said Brooke DuBois, the Benton-Franklin Community Health Alliance's executive director. "It's a haphazard hodgepodge. To me, a system indicates something that has design."

The guide for the president-elect's health care community discussions asked questions such as: What do you perceive is the biggest problem in the health care system? Have you or your family members ever experienced difficulty paying medical bills? How should public policy promote quality health care providers? How can public policy promote healthier lifestyles?

"This is unprecedented. I haven't seen this," Jecha said. "Finally, I think we're putting some importance to (health reform). I think it puts it in a different light than it has in the past."

Issues and solutions identified during small group discussions among those present -- which included health care providers, people affiliated with health organizations and community members -- included more emphasis on preventive care, educating people about healthy decisions from a young age, increasing access to primary care, releasing more information on the performance of doctors and hospitals and giving more incentives for healthy lifestyles.

For more about the nationwide community discussions and the transition team's approach to health reform, visit

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