Meeting recorded health care concerns

July 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The health care reform debate drew a crowd in San Francisco on Wednesday night. The town hall meeting at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital was designed to record everyone's thoughts and ideas about the issue to then share with lawmakers in Washington.

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"Health care should be a right in a civilized society, not a privilege," said a speaker at the meeting.

"The thing about Cobra is, if you lose your job, how can you afford Cobra?" said another speaker.

One by one, members of the Bay Area community sounded off, sharing their concerns about health care. A panel of medical experts weighed in as well.

"It's probably not possible to make the health care system worse in the United States. Probably almost any alternative would be better," said San Francisco public health director Mitch Katz, M.D.

The town hall was put on by St. Francis and St. Mary's medical centers of San Francisco. Every thought, every idea shared here tonight was recorded. They'll be shipped to lawmakers in Washington.

"If Washington is willing and able to listen to the people, and the people are willing to commit and be engaged, then we can pass health reform now," said Abbie Yant from the St. Francis Memorial Hospital.

Many chose to write down their concerns instead, placing them in bins that will also be shipped to Washington. Cardiologist Frank Malin, M.D., is worried reform will mean reduced reimbursements for doctors like himself.

"The prices of everything that I have to purchase continues to increase and my rent continues to increase. For me to continue to serve my current patients and accept new ones, I really hope they will be able to at least keep it where it is," said Malin.

There's no question there's a lot at stake. Many people here say the time to act is now -- not just for themselves, but for future generations.

"I'm interested in health care for my grandchildren too. So, I really would like to see cost containment, and that's very, very, very important," said Hene Kelly with the Alliance for Retired Americans.

If things stay the way they are, it's estimated that by 2016, the average family will devote 45 percent of its income to health insurance.

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