EYE ON THE PRIZE: Parents brought their children out in droves to the Forum in Inglewood for the Remote Area MediaÂ Medical event â€“ a no cost health extravaganza in August. Participants received free eye care exams.Â Â Photo Credit: Jason Lewis for Sentinel Â
Healthcare Reform is THE Issue
President Obama came into office intending to overhaul the nation's healthcare system and that is what he is doing
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
The biggest brouhaha in the country today is the healthcare reform: President Barack Obama wants to reform the nation's healthcare system and though most Americans would agree that the system needs fixing, some of them believe that this president is either not the right president to do it or he is not going about it the right way. But that is just a superficial evaluation; there are many unnecessary diversions that have been surfacing which have nothing to do with healthcare reform but are bent on preventing it at all costs.
One of the sticking points is the public option. President Obama recently gave a speech to Congress and outlined his positions clearly, but it did not seem to sway too many fence- straddlers one way or the other. Then he took to the airwaves and totally enveloped the Sunday morning talk shows even though he was not allowed to utilize all the media time pitching his healthcare reform package. Other questions came into play including the economy--which everything else depended on--race, housing foreclosures, interrogation abuses, civility in public and sending more troops to Afghanistan. But the main focus remained healthcare reform; that is what propelled the President's speech to Congress, it triggered his unprecedented television blitz, it has resulted in a drop in his overall approval ratings and it appears to be dividing his own party. Notwithstanding, the President does not have many (or any) Republicans on board anyway.
Despite the loud noises of rejection about his plan, President Obama seems to be optimistic. Last Sunday during his television blitz, he said, "I'm pleased that we've gotten 80 percent agreement; we have to work on the other 20 percent over the next few weeks." And though polls have indicated that Americans are generally satisfied with their coverage, the polls did not indicate that there is a large segment of the population that does not have any health coverage whatsoever. With public option as the main point of contention, some who are arguing against it may not even understand what they are against; and even some who may benefit from it have been arguing against it. Simply put, the public option is a safety net provided by the government for those whose cannot afford healthcare insurance. Liberals are for it and conservatives are against it; in the middle are the fence-straddlers.
The Sentinel has reached out to experts in the medical field who are uniquely qualified to shed some light on the subject of the public option within the healthcare reform package.
Dr. Camille Nelson is a cardiologist based in Atlanta, Georgia, and she was recognized as a distinguished fellow in the American College of Cardiology in its 49th Annual Convention. In her practice, she deals with patients with good insurance and some with no insurance. Dr. Nelson said, "The public option is something they want to use only because they are not willing to do a single payer system. Of all the other countries in the world that have a single payer system, it's simple but for some reason, for this country, it is not simple." She continued, "I think the public option will be helpful but the single payer would be the best option. The public option would be good because obviously if the fees are low, people would have an option other than having to go to the private insurance companies who could still charge whatever they wanted to charge." Dr. Nelson has both Medicare and private insurance patients.
Dr. Mark Perrault is a medical doctor and a psychiatrist based in Los Angeles. "The United States is the only civilized nation that does not have a public option or a healthcare system which provides coverage for everyone," he said, "and it's unconscionable for Members of Congress to not think that there has to be such an option. I think it [the public option] will force the insurance companies to be competitive and to operate fairly which they don't do presently."
Many Members of Congress are on board with the public option including Congresswomen Maxine Waters (CA-35), Barbara Lee (CA-9) and Diane Watson (CA-33), who issued a statement that said in part: "Our efforts to tackle healthcare began under the leadership of President Harry S. Truman, who attempted to include universal health insurance under the Fair Deal reforms. Hilary Clinton spearheaded this effort in the 90's and, now, thankfully, President Obama has made it one of his top priorities. We have known our options for years. To reduce the costs of healthcare for the average middle class working family, we have to reform the system and introduce a public option."
In reference to the healthcare reform, Dr. Alonzo Lockhart, a general practitioner based in Orange County, who has been a medical doctor for over two decades said, "We need something different and the insurance [companies] make more money than the doctors and the hospitals," the ones that are actually dispensing the treatment. "So I think that a public option should be available," he continued. "I think that those who can afford should do so to get whatever medicine they can but just for the poor people, they should have a public option something that the government can handle."
The impact on the struggling economy is an important factor in the healthcare reform debate: how much it will cost and where will the money come from?
There has also been a racial element that has been factored into the equation as it relates to President Obama, the nation's first Black president and the man at the center of the healthcare storm. The President has distanced himself from the racial dynamic and has said, "Race has always been a volatile issue in this society....are there some people who don't like me because of my race? I'm sure there are..."
Â But during a television interview, former President Jimmy Carter stated, "An overwhelming portion of the demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a Black man," and he added further, "racism still exists."
It may seem like the President is fighting an uphill battle, but there are lights at the end of the tunnel for his healthcare reform package. The American Medical Association, the largest group of doctors in the nation, has endorsed his plan and his even though he is bending over backwards to include the Republicans, the reality is the that Democrats--which the President is their leader--controls both Houses of Congress. And the first lady, Michelle Obama is challenging all women to get involved in healthcare reform because it is "women's business."