The Time Is Right for the United States, Oregon and the Communities of Lane County to Pursue Fundamental Health Care Reform

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), March 26, 2007 | Go to article overview

The Time Is Right for the United States, Oregon and the Communities of Lane County to Pursue Fundamental Health Care Reform


Byline: RX FOR HEALTH CARE By Mel Pyne and Roy Orr For The Register-Guard

The time is right for the United States, Oregon and the communities of Lane County to pursue fundamental health care reform. As various reform proposals are brought forward, we all should become informed and help shape changes that are inevitable in the coming years.

Our health care delivery system has advanced and adapted, while the system for financing health care has become obsolete. The employer-based funding system of the 1950s simply is not suited for the complex health care system of the 21st century.

The result is an unprecedented number of uninsured and underinsured, unsustainable increases in insurance premiums for individuals and employers, and high levels of uncompensated care for health providers.

Other major aspects of the current problem include tobacco, drug and alcohol abuse; increasingly difficult mental health concerns; medical errors; the rising cost of medical technologies; disproportionate consumption of health care resources at the end of life; and the use of hospital emergency rooms to treat primary care problems. People need to accept greater personal responsibility for their health, while the health care system needs fundamental changes to improve access, quality and cost of care.

At least four reform proposals deserve Oregonians' attention: former Gov. John Kitzhaber's Archimedes Movement and its Oregon Better Health Act; the Oregon Health Care Trust Act, proposed by state Sens. Alan Bates and Ben Westlund; the Oregon Health Policy Commission's Road Map for Health Care Reform; U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden's Healthy Americans Act.

In Lane County, the 100 Percent Access Coalition is pursuing improved access to care. The broad-based effort involves health care providers, public agencies and private businesses working together to ensure the viability of our community's safety net clinics, improve the availability of medication through primary care physicians, enhance mental health referrals, and broaden basic health insurance options. Sacred Heart Medical Center and McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center actively support the effort.

The Archimedes Movement is particularly comprehensive in its approach. We respect Kitzhaber's valor in seeking constituents' varied perspectives in formulating the Oregon Better Health Act, which is currently being considered by the Legislature. …

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