Local forum focuses on health care

March 15, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Health care reform is coming, so read up, ask questions and save your money, a panel of experts told about 100 people in Carroll County last night.

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Republican who represents Maryland's 6th District, sponsored a forum at Carroll Community College to discuss reforms being debated in Congress.

Most of the 13 panelists, who included health care professionals from the county, agreed that consumers will have less choice in their health benefits and that care may cost more.

"I see tremendous changes happening very quickly in the Maryland market, and it doesn't have anything to do with [President] Clinton," said Linda Harder, vice president of marketing at Carroll County General Hospital.

The changes are happening because of changes in the marketplace, she said.

William Dougherty, economics professor at Carroll Community College, said, "Health care is a commodity like any other commodity. We want the best. We want it immediately, and we don't want to pay much for it.

"The solution is to let the market decide. If we don't want to pay for it, we will not get the best," Mr. Dougherty said.

The panelists said they do not support the president's proposal to provide health insurance for all Americans by setting up health care cooperatives managed by the government.

A Clinton administration representative was invited to speak at the forum, according to Mr. Bartlett's office, but did not respond.

Westminster chiropractor Gregory Lewis said, "We should be very concerned about expanding the government's role in health care. No government-run program has ever become less costly."

Mr. Bartlett supports the idea of allowing people to set up tax-free accounts to pay medical expenses. The "Medisave" accounts would earn interest, and families would be able to choose their own doctors.

Primary care physician Arthur J. Lomant of Eldersburg said health care costs have increased because general practitioners no longer handle as much as they once did.

Many doctors can handle certain emergencies in their offices, but they don't, in part because they're afraid of malpractice lawsuits, he said.

Westminster attorney J. Barry Hughes said malpractice insurance costs for doctors need to be reduced because only a small percentage are found guilty of malpractice.

Sarah Gamerman, a registered nurse at the Robinwood Medical Center in Hagerstown, urged consumers to take responsibility for understanding their medical care.

"You must insist questions are answered in a manner you understand," she said. "You don't need to be intimidated by health care. You need to ask questions and demand answers."

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