Health care talk rouses, outrage Woe heaped high at Howard meeting over cost, coverage

October 23, 1992|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Spiraling health costs. Medical problems of elderly citizens. People without health insurance.

Those were some of the issues raised last night at a town meeting to discuss Maryland's health care problems. About 70 people attended the meeting in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City. It was the first in a series of public meetings to discuss problems in health care and propose solutions.

The meetings are co-sponsored by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, the University of Maryland School of Law, the Maryland Health Resources Planning Commission, the University of Maryland Center for Health Research Policy, the Health Care for All Coalition, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the Maryland Health and Long Term Care Action Group of the American Association of Retired Persons and the Maryland League of Women Voters.

Other town meetings will be held this month and next in Baltimore, on the Eastern Shore, and in Montgomery, Washington, Allegany and Prince George's counties.

"The governor shares your concerns and worries about the rapidly rising cost of health care," said Marilyn Goldwater, executive assistant to the governor on health issues.

"He wants to know what your problems are," she said. "He doesn't promise anything. We didn't get into this situation overnight, and we're not going to get out of it overnight," she said.

"The state has been hearing from Marylanders basically three questions," said Patty Pollard, president of the league. "Will we all have access to the health care we need? What is the basic care we need? How can we control increasing costs of health care?"

Health care cost a Maryland family $2,049 in 1980 and $4,400 in 1991, she said. "Health care costs are increasing 89 percent faster than wages for Maryland's families," Ms. Pollard said.

Some citizens at the meeting voiced concern about the state's $7.3 million cut in Medicaid that would affect 2,000 families who have members in nursing homes. One woman was in tears, and others were outraged.

Among the outraged, Sylvia Erber of Columbia said she never thought the state would be "so callous, so cruel, so without moral fiber as to take people who are in wheelchairs, who are Alzheimer's patients and to throw them out in the street."

Raise taxes, she suggested.

"I think taxes drive people up the wall without people realizing what they get out of taxes," Ms. Erber said.

An estimated 7 million Americans -- 400,000 Marylanders -- don't have health insurance, according to Ms. Pollard. About three-quarters of them are working people and their dependents, and the rest are children.

People at the meeting differed on how to deal with health care and insurance.

Some wanted the federal and state governments to combine resources to provide universal insurance, while others pointed to coverage available in other states as examples for Maryland to follow. But all agreed that each citizen was entitled to health insurance.

Ernest Erber, Ms. Erber's husband, advocated total health coverage from birth to death. "I believe we need to have government encourage people to protect themselves . . . by offering tax deductions for the premiums, even if they only get to deduct half," he said.

After almost three hours of discussion about Maryland's health care issues, 56-year-old Leona Dell didn't have an answer to the problems.

"They don't know what the answer is," she said. "It needs a lot of help. It needs a lot of work."

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