Final health care forum spotlights solutions


We are paying too much and getting too little in the results, Sara Johnson says.

The chairwoman for the The League of Women Voters’ series on heath care reform notes that the problems are not to identify. When it comes to solutions, well …

"There are so many special interests in the system," Johnson says. "It’s really difficult to change unless there’s a mandate from the public."

The league is hoping to involve the public much more in local and regional statewide reform issues as it hosts its fourth and final free forum from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, in the Little Theatre on the campus of Peninsula College, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd., Port Angeles. 

The forums are co-sponsored by Olympic Medical Center, and have attracted more than 200 participants to a single forum.

The final program, led by forum coordinator Bertha Cooper, takes a long-term view of solutions and ways to reduce costs while increasing access, beginning with a presentation on an Institute of Medicine Report outlining areas in which costs can be reduced by 20 to 33 percent. 

"There is no free health care and we all need it," says Johnson. "We’re all paying for it, one way or another."

George M. Martin, M.D., Pathology Professor Emeritus, University of Washington, discusses present reforms from both the Affordable Healthcare Act and a single-payer perspective that address cost reductions. Martin also introduces the importance of research to identify the link between disease and aging as a long-term strategy in reducing costs and improving health.

Tom Locke, M.D., MPH, Health Officer for Clallam and Jefferson Counties, addresses solutions from the perspective of prevention from both a public health and individual point of view. He also speaks to the problem rural communities have when “urban” solutions are the basis for public policy.

"One size does not fit all," Cooper says, regarding an urban approach to health care in areas like Clallam County.

The league also added Dr. David McLanahan, a retired surgeon who is quite active in national health care reform efforts, Cooper says.

McLanahan is surgeon emeritus at Pacific Medical Center and clinical associate professor emeritus at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He was previously chief of general surgery at Pacific Medical Center.

A panel discussion featuring questions from the audience follows the presentations.

"We’ve expanded the panel for questions; that’s what people really want," Cooper says.

The first forum, held in May, focused on rising costs that limit access to care. The second forum, in July, dealt with moral and ethical questions surrounding the health care debate. The August forum contrasted public policy and free-market approaches.

"We’ve answered a lot," Cooper notes, "but (we’ve) stimulated a lot of questions."

With the previous forums, Johnson says, the league wanted to give background so that the public would see how important the situation is. 

"This (forum) is where the rubber meets the road," she says.

"The goal should be for the best care for the most people, not the cheapest."