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I recently attended the Old North State Medical Society’s Health Care medcareReform Banquet. The keynote speaker was national health care policy expert Kenneth Thorpe.

Thorpe worked on the Clinton health care reform attempt.  He said obesity contributes to health care costs. He stressed prevention as an important part of health care reform. He also talked about the concept of a “medical home” a primary provider who coordinates all the care for a patient with many chronic conditions. Instead of the current fee for service system where the patient sees many different specialist and no one coordinates medications or compliance. He talked about the importance of preventative screenings with no copays.

His most important message with the failure of the Clinton health care plan was the attitude of getting your first choice and if you could not have your first choice you chose the status quo. This time around Thorpe said no one will get their first choice and changing the status quo has to be more important. We have to pass a bill.

Thorpe and G.K. Butterfield, who were both given awards for their work on health care reform, said their are political hot buttons in the bill you hear about in the media like immigration, abortion, taxes, and the cost. What you do not hear about in the house bill are common sense things like 85/15:  Insurance companies having to spend at least 85% of every health care premium dollar they collect on actual health care services and spend no more than 15% on administrative costs.

The theme of the night was what I was thinking myself this week. A health care reform bill has to be passed, the status quo can’t stand any longer. We need to put aside partisanship, where we stand on abortion, how much of a public option there is, or our views on immigration. I am willing to give up my first choice to do the right thing and fight to end the status quo of health care now.

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Yesterday my husband and I walked in from our mail box with two medical bills we were dreading. The neurologist wanted me to have an EEG after I experienced a possible seizure.  I told him we could not afford it.  Neither he nor the hospital could tell us how much this test they do every day would cost.   I looked at my savings, checking, and projected income and realized I could pay the bill.  It leaves me with five dollars until November.

I have been a person who exercises, does not smoke, does not drink, avoids processed foods, and only utilizes health care I can pay for.  We have health insurance.  One day I went for my yearly exam and my primary care doctor found something neurologically off.  After a year and a half of expensive tests, in April I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  Now I have no other choice of health insurance than the one I had before my diagnosis.  The out of pocket costs for my health plan doubled with the new fiscal year.  I do not qualify for Medicaid.  I just received the updated rules for my health plan and I can hardly understand them.  This makes no sense.  I worked for a health insurance company so I should be able to understand the policy.

Going into this recent recession my husband and I had no debt except our mortgage.  In 2001 he was laid off.  We lost everything and had no health insurance for two years because Cobra was too expensive.

Our income has decreased and our health insurance premiums and out of pocket costs keep increasing.

I have family members who only care about protecting their Medicare.  I hear people say health care is a matter of personal responsibility.  What if you just can not afford all the costs?  What if you have a crippling, incurable illness through no fault of your own?

Do people really think they or someone they love will not be struck with some illness they can not afford?   Are people happy with the status quo of insurance plans becoming more and more limited and premiums and out of pocket costs climbing faster than income?

No one should have to feel sick walking to the mail box to see if it contains an unaffordable medical bill. No one should have to choose between the hospital or staying home because of the cost of needed care.  No one should have to skip doses or cut up medications because the pills are too expensive.

For me, the difference between people for and against reform is not political.  It’s simply that the opponents of reform haven’t had to deal with the reality of the health system for many families like mine.