Montgomery News

Citizens Invited to Participate in Health Care Planning

Montgomery News — Tuesday, January 13, 2009

By Joan Goldstein

In At the invitation of Keith Hovey, on a chilly Sunday evening, (1/11) at the Church of St. Charles of Borromeo, Skillman, sixteen people turned out for a meeting — their first on Health Care Reform.

Hovey, an attorney on the Board of Health of Montgomery, formerly a health provider in low-economic communities pressed the idea that we (need to) move forward in health care reform. He estimated that "45 to 50 million people in the U.S. don't have health care coverage...the health care we, (taxpayers) do pay for is charity care - people forced to go into hospitals at the last possible minute. Through preventive care, you can avoid these costs." Hovey says, "If you don't have health insurance, they'll bill you the full eighty thousand for a week's stay in a hospital. These are the type of issues we try to navigate through."

At this point, Hovey introduced his guest speaker. Leo Torrey of New Jersey Citizen Action, an advocacy group that takes the lead in prevention, education and legislative activities, (Website: www.njcitizenaction.org). Torrey said, " Now is the time to fight for some reforms in health care. Costs have spiraled out of control." He asks the group, "Why do we need health care reform?" and offers some daunting statistics:

And what about health care reform in New Jersey — what does it mean for you? Torrey offers this information: — New Jersey Legislature passed Health Care Reform Bill in June, 2008. This bill expands NJ FamilyCare. Going forward, it is an effort to expand mandate to All NJ residents.

Torrey says the most serious current problem is the push by Horizon "\Which wants to convert to a for-profit entity and to be responsible only to shareholders." Torrey urges the group, "We need to get the pressure on them."

One member of the group pointed out that "Campaigns that you organize were effectively done for social security. The labor movement was against privatizing that plan. Labor Relations would rally and the press would come to put a spotlight on the issue in town hall meetings. It's hard to stop that; harder to get something done."

On another concern, Torrey pointed out that on January 15, there was a press conference at the State House in Trenton regarding the plight of small businesses and health care coverage for their workers.

After this review of weighty health care problems and after the coffee and oatmeal cookies had been consumed, the newly formed group was asked to supply their contact information so that they can network amongst their own community and share information. They were also asked to fill out a questionnaire, anonymously, on income and health care demands for a study in progress on citizens and the economic costs of health care.

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