HHS Secretary pitches health reform in Philly

    Health reform skeptics are concerned about health care rationing

    More than 200 people gathered at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia Sunday for a town hall meeting on health insurance reform. Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter and U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius hosted the event and were interrupted often by a mix of cheers and jeers.

    Listen: [audio:090802tehealth.mp3]

    Specter and Sebelius quickly ditched their prepared speeches and took questions from the audience. Ana Puig is an immigrant from Brazil and says she’s worked hard to afford health care.

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    picture-005Puig: Why is that we are turning the United States, that I have learned to love so much during the past 22 years, into a land of entitlement?

    Secretary Sebelius answered …

    Sebelius: Although we have a health system that works well for some Americans who pay their taxes and work hard, there are lots of Americans who pay their taxes and work hard who don’t have the kind of health care that some of us enjoy.

    Sebelius is trying to sell health reform to skeptical Middle class Americans. She says high costs and inefficiency in the U.S. system make it a bad bargain even for those who have very good health insurance coverage.

    picture-003Sebelius says a healthcare overhaul will benefit both the uninsured and people who already have good coverage. She says the reform bills in the House and Senate change the payment system so doctors are rewarded for better health outcomes.

    Sebelius: Many doctors will tell you that they would much rather have an incentive to keep their patients healthy than to spend 75 percent of their time on chronic conditions which is what we are doing now. So, there’s a huge incentive in the bill for preventive care and wellness care.

    Sebelius says right now only about 8 cents of the U.S. health dollar are spent on prevention.

    Members of the Philadelphia Tea Party interrupted the secretary several times with jeers and boos. They oppose proposals for another public health insurance plan and are concerned about health care rationing.

    picture-002Surgeon Jason Bell traveled from Newark, Delaware to share his reservations. Bell says the proposals in the House and Senate will lead to health care rationing similar to national health systems in Europe.

    Bell: While it would be true to ration care would cut costs, the American people don’t want protocoled, rationed health care. And that’s my concern.

    Secretary Sebelius says the current U.S. system already rations care for millions of underinsured people who pay for coverage and get little in return.

    Senator Specter was booed when he told the crowd that he thinks a single payer plan should be included in the health reform debate. Under a single-payer plan the U.S. government would control most of country’s health care dollars.

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