Oklahomans Debate Health Care Reform
By Jon Jordan, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Are you satisfied with your health care coverage? President Barack Obama's administration said there's a good chance you're not.
A report released by Obama's office said the quality of health care in Oklahoma is "weak." The report claims Oklahomans have seen a 77 percent increase in the cost of the average family's premiums since 2000. It also said 17 percent of Oklahomans say they haven't visited a doctor because of the high cost.
Doctor Rene McNall-Knapp and Tammi Shields, an at home nurse, deal with those realities daily.
"There are many times we will go see a patient and say we can no longer see them because they can't afford the insurance deductibles," Shields said.
"The number one cause of bankruptcy is health care costs and that's even in insured people," Dr. McNall-Knapp said.
Those reasons are why both women with Oklahomans for Healthcare Reform support Obama's idea for a government run option.
"Right now you're hearing people say 'Well, I don't want government in my health care.' Well if you have health insurance option, guess what? You get to keep that. It's those without health insurance that were figuring out how to help," said Dr. McNall-Knapp.
The Obama administration is using the report in an effort to push the president's government run health care option, Oklahoma's delegation isn't buying it.
Congressman Tom Cole said those voicing their frustration at town halls across the state do have reason to be concerned.
"I can tell you that a lot of employers will be inclined to abandon their healthcare programs that they provide now and may say 'Look you now have a government option, go over there,'" Congressman Cole said.
Congressman Cole held his first town hall meeting in his district after convening for summer break. The town hall was Congressman Cole's first chance to see how people felt about Obama's health care plan and the response he got gave him enough reason to keep fighting against it.
"It will make you physically sick that they're going to ration health care and give free health care to all illegal aliens," said Oklahoma resident George Parker at a recent town hall meeting.
Instead of the President Obama's plan, the congressman said there are other ways to make heath care more affordable that aren't being debated like making insurance more cost effective for doctors..
"A lot of doctors have to pay extraordinary high insurance and that has to be passed on to the consumer," Cole said.
Besides lowering insurance costs for doctors, Cole also suggested opening up a national market. He said opening up the market alone could offer the consumer more choices without the government stepping in.
"There are a lot of common sense things we can do that would cut costs and make it easier for people. We're not talking about those types of things," Cole said.
While Representative Cole disagrees with the president's plan for how to reform health care, he also recognizes the current system isn't working, a reason he welcomes the debate going on in Washington and town halls across the country.