Panelists cite need for new health-care system - Catholic Courier

Panelists cite need for new health-care system

MENDON — Why does our nation’s health-care system needs overhauling? Let Dr. Anthony Solazzo and Sister Christine Wagner, SSJ, count the ways.

Solazzo and Sister Wagner served as panelists for a public presentation, “Affordable Health Care for All,” on May 19 at St. Catherine of Siena Church. In describing a typical working day, they rattled off numerous examples of people who are uninsured or underinsured.

Solazzo, a physician from Perinton, noted that earlier in the day he treated a 40-year-old man who had been without health insurance since being laid off from work a month earlier, as well as a 22-year-old man whose insurance coverage was set to expire and who didn’t plan to replace the lost coverage due to his good health and his unwillingness to pay up to $1,000 a month while just starting his career.

Sister Wagner, director of St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center in Rochester, said her facility that day had welcomed a man who had gone without dental work for many years; a woman who had skipped key gynecological tests; a person who had foregone diabetes treatment for more than a year; and another who needed an x-ray for an injured knee and didn’t know where else to turn. Sister Wagner pointed out that these were just four out of approximately 50 people who had come to the center that day with insufficient financial means to get the care they needed elsewhere — even though she said 70 percent of them have jobs.

Meanwhile, Mike Green said that from his experience as Monroe County district attorney, he believes many serious crimes committed in the City of Rochester can be tied to lack of access to health care. For instance, Green said that a child whose physical- and mental-health needs aren’t properly met is more likely to struggle in school and eventually drop out. That, in turn, would swell the possibility of drug abuse, gang activity and violent crime. Green added that parents often forego getting their children health care either because they’re without insurance or they don’t know how to navigate the system.

“If the parents want to do something, where do they turn?” Green remarked.

Completing the four-person panel was Dr. Clint Koenig, medical director for Rochester’s Monroe Plan for Medical Care, a branch of Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Holding aloft a jar, Koenig compared health care to peanut butter by noting that the approach to controlling costs for both is the same: You can raise the price, decrease the size of the “jar” or change the “additives.”

However, Solazzo responded that “the problem with the peanut-butter jar is, this is the system we have. What we have to do is get rid of this bottle.”

Solazzo believes that some form of universal health care needs to be developed in the United States, although some audience members debated the pluses and minuses of such systems in Canada and Europe during an ensuing question-and-answer session. Green asserted that we need a system that offers treatment for people when they need it regardless of income level, and he called for the audience to voice their concerns to their governmental leaders, while Koenig said we all need to be part of “really hard discussion” by making known our values and preferences.

Sister Wagner labeled the current health-care system “unfixable” and agreed with her copanelists that citizens need to make themselves heard — especially during a period when health-care reform is high on President Barack Obama’s agenda.

“We are at a critical time because we’re talking about a new system. And if we don’t get involved, we’re not going to get what we want,” Sister Wagner said.

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