Missourians to lobby in D.C. for health care reform

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 | 1:26 p.m. CDT; updated 11:19 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 3, 2009

 COLUMBIA — Wendy Brumbaugh said she knows how difficult and frustrating getting access to a doctor can be.

Her job in Shelbyville involves counseling lower-income rural Missourians with financial problems, so she sees their lives up close. A major challenge they face is distance and access to health care. 

"We would have to drive at least 2 ½ hours to see a cardiac specialist from where I live," Brumbaugh said.

Her husband is diabetic, she said, so that often means driving to Columbia to see a specialist.

Brumbaugh is one of six Missourians — two from central Missouri — who will participate in what is being billed as "a massive day of action" in Washington on Thursday, as President Barack Obama and various members of Congress push for health care reform.

Hope Tinker, a family physician from Fayette who is also certified in geriatric medicine, is the second member from central Missouri who is going to the event.

The "day of action," organized by Heath Care for America NOW!, is to focus on lobbying Congress for affordable health coverage for everyone through a public health option. Health Care for America is paying the way of all the Missouri participants, with some help from Grass Roots Organizing.

Missouri representatives listed as supporters on Health Care for America's Web site are Sen. Claire McCaskill, Rep. Russ Carnahan and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, all Democrats.

Both Brumbaugh and Tinker are members of Grass Roots Organizing, a Mexico, Mo.-based organization that works on issues affecting lower income and rural Missourians. 

Robin Acree, director of Grass Roots Organizing, said Tinker and Brumbaugh will bring what she called a "rural lens" to the lobbying effort. Brumbaugh said she will try to give voice to the interests of rural people, and Tinker will be grouped with the physicians.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's study of health care coverage, 750,218 Missouri residents are without health insurance. Health insurance premiums have grown 76 percent from 2000 to 2007, according to the Families USA's September 2008 report, "Premiums versus Paychecks."

According to the New America Foundation, the cost of Missouri employer-sponsored health insurance is projected to rise at an annual rate of 8.7 percent, while income in Missouri is to grow just 0.2 percent.

Still, a new Washington Post-ABC poll found that most Americans are "very concerned" that a health care overhaul would lead to higher costs, lower quality, fewer choices, a bigger deficit, diminished insurance coverage and more government bureaucracy. About 6 in 10 are at least somewhat worried about all of these factors, the poll found, but they still want lawmakers to tackle the issue.

Brumbaugh is aware of some of the fears people have about health care reform.

"Right now, I think there's so many misconceptions out there that the fear factor is playing a huge role, trying to scare people into being against it for whatever reason," she said.

She said a woman recently said to her: "I'm not in favor of a public option. I don't want to pay for somebody else's insurance."

Brumbaugh told her: "You are right now, if you just think about it. We're all paying."

She said she hopes to dispel any notion that people will lose their right to choose private over public health insurance.

"That is not personally for me what I am lobbying for,” Brumbaugh said. “I want there to be a private option. What I want is for it to be affordable, but what we have had in the past is not working — anyone can see that — and we just need change.”

She noted that rural areas are often served only by clinics where a nurse practitioner sees patients for "the small simple things," she said. "When it comes to specialists, we don't have those."

Tinker said she hopes to have a chance to share personal stories of her own patients, including their struggles in obtaining health care and paying for health insurance.

"I think it is unique to rural people that the number of providers is a lot less," Tinker said. "I think transportation is a real issue for rural people. To see a specialist or have to go out of town for your primary care, it's a hassle. People can spend half a day going to doctors."

Tinker said access to health services has diminished in rural Missouri because physicians there make less money. She also pointed to fewer hospitals in rural communities than in the past.

"Why in the heck would I want to work in Fayette when I can make three times as much working in Columbia? Why work in some area where there isn't a hospital when it is known that doctors who don't work in hospitals don't make as much money?" she said.

Richard Gleba, director of the MU School of Medicine's Office of Communication and Innovation, said the medical school is addressing the shortage of rural physicians.

"We enroll highly qualified students from rural areas in the medical school and provide them with training opportunities in a rural setting," Gleba said. "Medical students who are from and train in rural areas are more likely to become physicians who practice in rural areas."

The event in Washington, which begins Thursday, is to include press events,  town hall meetings and conferences with lawmakers and is to culminate in a rally at 11:30 a.m. at Upper Senate Park.

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Deborah Calvert June 25, 2009 | 2:35 a.m.

My mother suffered and was killed by Sun Healthcare Group Inc’s Sunbridge nursing home in Newport Beach, Calif where they refused to repair / replace known broken equipment while under a Calif state injunction for having killed patients in Burlingame, Calif years earlier. The Dept of Justice turned a blind eye. The Dept of Health didn’t fine the usual $100,000 for her death. But their own medical director, Dr Stoney, wrote an opinion SUN killed her and he’d quit due to their disregard to his pleas and other families’ pleas for help.
They produce profits at the cost of elder abuse and manslaughter.
And the reason SUN can’t sue me for telling the truth is SUN didn’t pay me to sign a confidentialty agreement after mediation where my attorney threatened me with bodily harm for SUN’s CEO. I can prove wilful misconduct by SUN’s management and was due treble damages (triple the damages for wrongful death, elder abuse, pain & suffering, et al,), but settled on only a fraud charge due to threats and intimidation by my attorney. I sued him, Daniel Leipold, for malpractice and won –he died 2 weeks later. Do you think he was working for Sun Heatlhcare? This is all about money, have no doubt. SUN also cheated the taxpayers of the State of Calif for millions of dollars in fines the DOJ would have fined for the five deaths I witnessed, had they done they job properly.
Deborah Calvert daughter of the late Evelyn Calvert, Newport Beach, California

(Report Comment)
Deborah Calvert June 25, 2009 | 2:37 a.m.

It has been said that the true character of a people is shown by how they treat their most vulnerable: the very young, the sick, and the old. By that standard, the richest country in the world looks positively vicious for its treatment of the sick and the old compared to the "undeveloped" and "underdeveloped" countries I have been to. In those places, the old and sick do not have shiny high tech equipment or the latest cure all from Big Pharma or a trained nurse let alone a doctor to attend them. But the sick have someone there all the time to give them water or a bit of food, to turn them or adjust a pillow, to listen or talk or just sit with them. The old are treated with respect, provided good and often the best food as well as first choice of what other comforts are available, and listened to for their wisdom. Yes, of course, people die younger and often of easily curable diseases in those places. But what value is there in living longer if your pain is magnified by neglect and isolation? If your caretakers are under-trained, under-respected, underpaid, and so overworked they can't give your the care they know you should have? If you can be "transferred" away from family and friends without warning on the "business decision" of some faceless, nameless corporate bureaucrat? If you are little but a profit source to be discarded without compunction, even some relief, when you "underperform"? Better, I think, a shorter life with some dignity than a longer one as a mere commodity. If we are at ease treating old and sick people, at least those not among the plutocrats, as commodities who's whole value is profitability, why not set children to labor (including sexual labor --good profit there) and harvest the organs of the sick? No, no, we couldn't do that, we value life! That reply reminds me of an Oscar Wilde story. Seems the wit leaned over to a handsome young lady at dinner to ask if she would sleep with him for a million pounds; when she readily agree he asked if she would sleep with him for ten pounds; "what," she cried, "do you take me for a lady of the night?"; Oscar replied, "we've settled that matter already; we're just haggling over price." Americans have settled the matter that we are already greedy souls. We're just working out how to maximize profitability.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 25, 2009 | 8:02 a.m.

Two comments:

One problem is the societal attitude toward older people in this country. They are treated as a burden rather than as a potential resource. Many Americans past the age of 65 (or 62) are mentally and physically capable of seriously contributing to our society. Those who are not should be accorded dignified treatment.

If you think private corporations are bad, wait until government bureaucracy assumes total control of health care. We'll be pining for the good old days of private management!

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking June 25, 2009 | 8:48 a.m.

There has been serious talk in countries that ration health care (socialized medicine), about limiting the amount of care they allot to the elderly, and end-of-life care in general. This is not something we even consider in this country.

I agree that the elderly are a tremendous resource. I also notice in poorer areas, the elderly are less isolated. The kids are around more, and friends, neighbors, and churchmates stop over often. When you don't have a lot materially, people become that much more important to you.


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